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The Stadhuis Town Hall, in Leiden, was built in the 1600 in what is called the Renaissance style of architecture. Made of German sandstone, it is also the longest Town Hall building in the Netherlands. One February morning in 1929, a fire broke out in the Town Hall burning it to the ground as it was so cold that part of the water being used to extinguish the fire froze as soon as it hit the façade. It was then re-built in the old style using what material remained.

The fire, of 1929, though common knowledge amongst the old residents of Leiden, is remembered differently or has different memory triggers for each individual. Our local guides for the Leiden walkabout shared with us how members of their family remembered the fire. While Willem’s mother remembered standing in front of the burning building and watch it burn, Laura’s grandfather narrated to the family how he had skid in front of the Town Hall as the water from the fire truck had frozen on the street in front. Oral narratives like these not only tell us about important events or incidents in history but also give us an insight into the minute details of how these incidents were experienced in the everyday living.





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Mesha Murali

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Ambedkar University Delhi


History Frozen in Memory


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