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The Amsterdam Eel Riots resulted in the loss of 26 lives and one eel. The riots were caused by the traditional Dutch game of Eel Grabbing, where men in boats attempted to pull a live eel from a rope strung across a canal. Winners could earn a large sum of money, up to 6 Guilders. On July 25, 1886, four police officers attempted to stop a game of Eel Grabbing, which angered the crowd of spectators. A riot broke out, with police using batons to defend themselves from the enraged masses. The rioters returned the next day and stormed the police station, leading to a confrontation with the military and the deaths of 26 rioters. Two thousand protestors were arrested, and the police officers were rewarded with cigars. The eel that sparked the riots was later sold at auction for 175 Guilders and never seen again. It is noted that the same effect could have been achieved with a dead eel and someone jiggling the rope.


1. What were the Amsterdam Eel Riots?

The Amsterdam Eel Riots were a series of protests and riots that occurred in the city of Amsterdam during the summer of 1886. The riots were sparked by a sudden increase in the price of eels, which were a staple food for the city’s working-class population.

2. Why were eels so important to the people of Amsterdam?

Eels were a cheap and plentiful source of protein for the working-class people of Amsterdam. They were commonly eaten with bread and butter, and were a staple food for many families in the city. Eel fishing was also an important industry in Amsterdam, with many people making their living from catching and selling eels.

3. What caused the price of eels to rise?

The exact cause of the price rise is unclear, but it is believed to have been a combination of factors including overfishing, changes in fishing regulations, and a decrease in the number of eels migrating to Amsterdam’s canals. The sudden price increase was felt most strongly by the city’s poorest residents, who could no longer afford to buy eels.

4. How did the riots start?

The riots began on July 26, 1886, after a group of women marched to the city hall to demand that the government intervene to lower the price of eels. When their demands were not met, the women began throwing stones and other objects at the building. The riots quickly spread, with thousands of people taking to the streets to protest the high price of eels.

5. How long did the riots last?

The riots continued for several days, with protesters barricading streets and confronting police. The situation became so chaotic that the military was called in to restore order. The riots finally came to an end on August 2, 1886, after the government agreed to lower the price of eels.

6. What was the aftermath of the Amsterdam Eel Riots?

The riots had a lasting impact on the city of Amsterdam. The government introduced new regulations to prevent overfishing and ensure that eel stocks remained healthy. The riots also highlighted the growing divide between the rich and poor in Amsterdam, and led to calls for greater social justice and equality.

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