No 2 (2012)

De wortels van de Randstad. Overheidsinvloed en stedelijke hiërarchie in het westen van Nederland

The Roots of the Randstad concerns the origins of the polycentric nature of contemporary cities in the western area of the Netherlands, commonly known as ‘the Randstad’. Within the disciplines of planning and urban design the Randstad is considered a textbook example of a polycentric urban hierarchy. Yet, very little is actually known about the driving forces that have given shape to existing urban hierarchies throughout the world. Moreover, the Randstad has also been dubbed ‘Holland’s paradox’ because of its assumed reversed evolution from a primate city hierarchy focused on Amsterdam in early modern times, to a polycentric hierarchy in the 19th century. Why do urban hierarchies change over time and which factors were decisive for the rise of the polycentric Randstad?

Via the description of the governmental organization in each period, attention is drawn to the fact that by bargaining over tax funds, towns themselves gathered political influence in the 15th and even power in the 17th-18th centuries. The rise of urban power coincides with stagnation in the distribution of competitive advantages and the disappearance of exclusive instruments out of the governmental toolkit. This, firstly, gave rise to the suspicion that, once in power, urban representatives preferably avoid the stimulation of opponents’ competitive positions. When combined with the fact that, after disabling towns financially and politically, sovereign government in the second half of the 19th century pursued a policy wherein they kept aloof of dominant Amsterdam and stimulated other large towns, a second hypothesis can be formulated. Could it be that the rise of the polycentric Randstad wasn’t coincidence, and that Holland’s paradox was the result of a deliberate reckoning with an old political elite?

Table of Contents

PhD thesis

Nikki Brand