Enschede was granted city rights in 1325 by Jan van Diest, the Bishop of Utrecht and henceforth was allowed to protect itself with a wall. Because a stone wall was too expensive (since stone had to be imported), Enschede had a system of ditches, palisades and hedges instead, which is still reflected in the street-names Noorder-hagen and Zuiderhagen (North Hedge and South Hedge, respectively). The city plan of this era is still recognisable in the street-pattern.
The industrialisation stimulated a large increase in population, which at first was rather chaotic. The names of the slums (like De Krim and Sebastopol) are still notorious, although they have long since been torn down. In 1907 the laissez faire mentality was dropped and Enschede was the first city in the Netherlands to draw up an official expansion-plan, incorporating the (surrounding) municipality of Lonneker.
During the Second World War Enschede was one of the first Dutch cities to be captured by the Germans, being the city closest to Germany. Resistance members helped many of the Jews from Enschede to hide on farms in the vicinity. Out of approximately 1300 Jews in Enschede, 500 were saved (38.5%), compared to less than 20% in the rest of the Netherlands. This high survival rate is attributed to three members of the Jewish Council of Enschede, Sig Menco, Gerard Sanders and Isidoor Van Dam who took the initiative, against the advice of the Jewish Council of Amsterdam, of urging their community to go into hiding and not to answer the call-up of the Germans for "labour in the East". They were in a position to support these directions to their flock since they had access to funds, to power in the community and to a well-developed underground movement headed by a prominent Protestant minister, Leendert Overduin (Yad Vashem). Due to carelessness the resistance group was betrayed by an infiltrator and all its members were killed by German soldiers while gathered in a basement. The Germans threw in some grenades, a few days before the allied troops liberated the city. Even though "De ondergrondse" (the resistance, litt. the underground) was the main resistance group, many other citizens risked their lives, for example by rescuing allied pilots who where shot down while on bombing missions. Because it was close to Germany (only a few kilometers from the city of Gronau in Germany) and housed a German command center, Enschede was frequently bombed by allied troops, aiming for the German command center or mistaking Enschede for a German city. Enschede was liberated on 1 April 1945 by Allied, mainly British, troops.
With the support of the national government, this property was acquired and rebuilt. The city center was rendered a car-free zone, the importance of Enschede as a Euregional Centre was stimulated and Enschede managed to rise from the ashes. (That is something the city is famous for, rising from ashes.)
In 2001 a referendum confirmed the proposal of the city council to expand the built-up area into the Usseler Es, an area of some historic (agri-)cultural importance and of geological importance here the Usselo horizon was discovered.
Large scale construction and renovation activities in the city center have been ongoing for several years.
The city is a former centre of textile production. When this industry left the area for cheaper production centers in South-East Asia, Enschede became one of the poorest municipalities in the Netherlands. The biggest challenge of the city is to prevent higher educated (wealthy) citizens from moving to the west (Randstad). Decades of renovation work in the city center have been carried out with the goal of making Enschede more attractive to this group. Modern shopping centers and department stores that until recently were only found in much larger cities have been opened. Enschede is host to many yearly festivals and the Old Market Square is often the venue for events, live music and other activities on the weekend. After some hesitation on the part of the city council, Enschede was able to host Roze Zaterdag in the summer of 2004 which was a huge success. This not only gave the local economy a boost, but also drew positive attention to Enschede's gay community, the largest in the east of the Netherlands. In many aspects, Enschede is admittedly trying to present itself as the Amsterdam of the east. In reality Enschede has more in common with Berlin. Like the German capital Enschede has a troubled urban economy, but is still home to a vibrant artistic scene. Also the city's laid-back attitude, by some attributed to the relatively low economic activity of its inhabitants (labour participation was about 57% in 2006) and the large numbers of students, artists and (semi-) government employees, make for a 'Berlinesque' athmosphere.
The proximity to Germany has, historically, been another major factor in the city's economic activity, ranging from the smuggling of coffee and tobacco in the 19th and 20th century, to large numbers of Germans, who visit the city's shops and (especially) the weekly markets. Therefore, most natives of Enschede speak German more or less fluently.
The city is co-operating with the nearby municipalities of Almelo, Borne and Hengelo as Netwerkstad Twente. A draft law plan to merge Enschede with Hengelo and Almelo was defeated in parliament under the influence of opposition from the other towns.
The world famous Grolsch beer is brewed in Enschede.
The university has courses in pure technical studies such as Applied Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Chemical Engineering, and also offers courses in Communication, Psychology, Economical Sciences, Business, Public Administration, Applied Medicine and Biomedical Technology; the latter attract a broader public. Since 2006, the programme of European Studies has been added to the university's offerings.
Enschede is also home to one of the three campuses of Saxion University of Applied Sciences (Saxion Hogeschool Enschede), a polytechnical school offering internationally recognized Bachelor's degrees and Master's degrees in a wide range of fields, including engineering, economics and health care. The other campuses are located in Deventer and Apeldoorn.
The International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (known by its abbreviation ITC) is famous for its MSc, Master's, Diploma and PhD courses in Geo-Information Science for developing countries. Students from all over the world attend the ITC.
The Medisch Spectrum Twente (MST) hospital is one of the largest top-clinical hospitals of the Netherlands and features important tertiary care departments, fulfilling a supraregional role. It includes a level I trauma center as well. The hospital is strongly involved in higher medical education, with up to 300 medical students following their internships in the hospital at any given time, closely working together with the University of Twente's Technical Medicine program training a new type of technically specialized docters.
There is no track connection between the two systems. The through line had been retained for eventual NATO use during the Cold War even after through passenger service was ended (September 1981), although it was left in serious disrepair in later years. With the renewal of service to Germany (May 2001) the track was severed; there is a gap of about 3 meters between them
Enschede has a combined regional civil airport, Enschede Airport, and Airbase Twenthe of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The latter was closed in 2007; whether or not the former can remain open is under consideration. Enschede is situated at the south-east terminus of the Twentekanaal.