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City rights in the Netherlands

City rights are a medieval phenomenon in the history of the Low Countries. City rights, which were granted by a landlord, gave settlements certain privileges that settlements without city rights didn't have.

To stimulate the establishment of cities, landlords started to grant privileges to settlements around the year 1000 A.D. The total package of these privileges are the city rights. City rights turned settlements into interesting locations for merchants. This resulted in economic growth of the cities. The landlord took profit from this economic growth by means of taxes.
Because the landlord remained in charge of the composition of local government, he continued to exercise his political influence. Several cities nonetheless managed to acquire a reasonable amount of autonomy through the years. Some cities even managed to grow to city states. The first community in the Netherlands to receive city rights was Deventer in 956, though Nijmegen also received city rights during the Roman Empire. The last community in the Netherlands to receive city rights was Winschoten in 1825.

City rights

  • Privileges
City walls (the right to erect a defense wall around an inhabited area)
Market right (the right to hold a market and receive income from the markets)
Toll right (the right to charge toll)
Mint right
  • Freedoms
Personal freedom (citizens had a relative degree of personal freedom in comparison to citizens of rural areas)
  • Governance
City governance (Well-to-do citizens could sometimes elect local government officials)

Granting of city rights, chronologically

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