Slavery in Dutch America and the West Indies
- LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0230
- LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0230
Slavery in the Dutch Atlantic world has five distinct themes: the early colonies of Brazil and Nieuw Nederland; the West African forts; the plantation colonies on the Wild Coast (Suriname, Essequibo, Berbice, and Demerara); in the West Indies on the islands of Curaçao, St. Eustatius, Bonaire, Saba, St. Maarten, and Aruba; and the Dutch participation in the transatlantic slave trade. At the height of slavery’s development during the last quarter of the 18th century, there were over 150000 slaves in the Dutch Atlantic settlements, which amounts to just over 6 percent of all slaves in the Americas and the West Indies. The vast majority of the slaves lived and worked in Suriname (60000) and Essequibo/Demerara (60000). The Dutch West Indies were more trade entrepôts than a plantation complex, without a large enslaved population. In 1863 slavery was abolished in all Dutch colonies. The emphasis in the historiography has been on the Dutch participation in the transatlantic slave trade. In total, Dutch slave traders shipped around 600,000 enslaved Africans to the New World, which is 5–6 percent of the total of the transatlantic slave trade. The Amiens peace in 1803 was the de facto end of the Dutch slave trade, and in 1814 the Dutch abolished the transatlantic slave trade de jure. The surviving records of Dutch slavery and the slave trade are among the richest of all nations, particularly the privately operated slave trade after 1720. During the 18th century, for instance, the Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie (MCC) equipped a total of 113 slaving voyages. On 25 May 2011, the archive of the MCC was inscribed on the UNESCO International Register “Memory of the World.” This article privileges the literature available in English, but it also includes some of the most important studies written in Dutch.
As a result of its large empire in the East Indies in the 19th and early 20th centuries, in the historiography of Dutch overseas expansion Atlantic history had routinely been underrepresented, as shown in Coolhaas 1960 (cited under Archives and Primary Sources). As a consequence, there is no broad overview on slavery in Dutch America and the West Indies. The closest works are Hoetink 1958 (cited under Slave Society in Curaçao), Hoetink 1967, and Hoetink 1973. Harry Hoetink’s work was instrumental for the authors of Oostindie 1989 and Stipriaan 1993 on the Suriname slavery complex. Another exception is the overview in Welie 2008. Somewhere between the colonial historiography compiled by Willem Coolhaas and the postcolonial research after 1960 stands Goslinga 1971, Goslinga 1985, and Goslinga 1990. The first part (Goslinga 1971) is mainly about the Dutch political and military presence in the New World in the 17th century. Part 2 (Goslinga 1985), on the other hand, is on the 18th century and is much more a social and economic study, as is Part 3 (Goslinga 1990), on the 19th century. Since 1990 or so, three major overviews on the Dutch slave trade and the Dutch Atlantic world have been published, giving a good introduction to the subject: Postma 1990 (cited under Dutch Transatlantic Slave Trade), Postma and Enthoven 2003, and Oostindie and Roitman 2014.
Brommer, Bea, and Henk den Heijer, eds. Grote atlas van de West-Indische Compagnie / Comprehensive Atlas of the Dutch West India Company I: De Oude WIC 1621–1674 / The Old WIC, 1621–1674. Voorburg, The Netherlands: Atlas Maior, 2011.
Massive atlas on the maps and charts of the Dutch Atlantic possessions of the period of the first or old West-Indische Compagnie (WIC), 1621–1674. Every geographical section begins with an introduction on the overseas settlements, and every map and chart has an elaborate caption. The atlas is bilingual.
Goslinga, Cornelis Ch. The Dutch in the Caribbean and on the Wild Coast, 1580–1680. Anjerpublikaties 12. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1971.
The first part of the Goslinga trilogy is mainly about the Dutch political and military presence in the West Indies and the Americas in the 17th century.
Goslinga, Cornelis Ch. The Dutch in the Caribbean and the Guianas, 1680–1791. Anjerpublikaties 19. Edited by Maria J. L. van Yperen. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1985.
Part 2 of Goslinga’s magnum opus, dealing with the long 18th century, is much more on social and economic aspects of the Dutch presence in the Antilles and on the Wild Coast. The references in the notes, however, are sometimes faulty.
Goslinga, Cornelis Ch. The Dutch in the Caribbean and in Surinam, 1791/5–1942. Anjerpublikaties 22. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1990.
Part 3 is on the long 19th century. In its scope the book follows Vol. 2; the emphasis is on Curaçao and Suriname.
Heijer, Henk den, and Pieter C. Emmer, eds. Grote atlas van de West-Indische Compagnie / Comprehensive Atlas of the Dutch West India Company II: De Nieuwe WIC, 1674–1791 / The New WIC, 1674–1791. Voorburg, The Netherlands: Atlas Maior, 2012.
Massive atlas on the maps and charts of the Dutch Atlantic possessions of the period of the second or new WIC, 1674–1791. Every geographical section begins with an introduction on the overseas possession, and every map and chart has an elaborate caption. The atlas is bilingual.
Hoetink, Harry. The Two Variants in Caribbean Race Relations: A Contribution to the Sociology of Segmented Societies. Translated by Eva M. Hooykaas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Hoetink’s seminal work on slavery and race relations in the Americas and the West Indies. Departing from a comparative historical and sociological perspective, Hoetink did not shy away from bringing social psychology into his analysis.
Hoetink, Harry. Slavery and Race Relations in the Americas: An Inquiry into Their Nature and Nexus. New York: Harper & Row, 1973.
Hoetink believes that there was no causal connection between the character or even the existence of black slavery and the patterns of race relations that took hold in particular societies. The nature of “race relations” was determined not by the labor system but by the larger social structure that existed outside slavery and survived its abolition. From the beginning that social structure was essentially a racial hierarchy.
Oostindie, Gert. Roosenburg en Mon Bijou: Twee Surinaamse plantages, 1720–1870. Caribbean Series 11. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Foris, 1989.
In this dissertation, the Surinamese plantation complex is analyzed on the basis of two case studies: a sugar plantation and a coffee plantation. An excellent in-depth study, based on extensive archival research.
Oostindie, Gert. Paradise Overseas: The Dutch Caribbean; Colonialism and Its Transatlantic Legacies. Warwick University Caribbean Studies. Oxford: Macmillan Education, 2005.
This is the English translation of Het paradijs overzee (Amsterdam: Bakker, 1997). In seven essays, including one titled “Slave, Black; Human?,” a concise history is presented around the main themes of Dutch Caribbean history and its legacies.
Oostindie, Gert, and Jessica V. Roitman, eds. Dutch Atlantic Connections, 1680–1800: Linking Empires, Bridging Borders. Atlantic World 29. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.
This edited volume focuses on Dutch networks in the Atlantic and is in a sense a revisionist follow-up of Postma and Enthoven 2003. It has more of a colonial instead of an Atlantic approach. There is little attention on enslaved Africans in the Dutch Atlantic.
Postma, Johannes, and Victor Enthoven, eds. Riches from Atlantic Commerce: Dutch Transatlantic Trade and Shipping, 1585–1817. Atlantic World 1. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.
This edited volume is the first attempt to give an overview of Dutch mercantile activities in the Atlantic world. The study makes a strong appeal for a reassessment of Dutch Atlantic commerce, including the Dutch Atlantic slave trade.
Schorsch, Jonathan. “Joden en slavernij in de Nederlandse koloniale wereld.” In Joden in de Cariben. Edited by Julie-Marthe Cohen, 114–127. Zutphen, The Netherlands: Walburg Pers, 2015.
Broad overview on Judaism and slavery in Dutch Brazil, Curaçao, and Suriname.
Stipriaan, Alex van. Surinaams contrast: Roofbouw en overleven in een Caraïbische plantagekolonie, 1750–1863. Caribbean Series 13. Leiden, The Netherlands: KITLV Uitgeverij, 1993.
In a sense this dissertation is the counterpart of Oostindie 1989. This book gives a broad overview of the Suriname plantation complex and how it functioned between 1750 and 1863.
Welie, Rik van. “Slave Trading and Slavery in the Dutch Colonial Empire: A Global Comparison.” New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids 82.1–2 (2008): 47–96.
The only modern and broad overview on slave trade and slavery in the Dutch colonial empire, comprising east and west. The references give a good overview on the available literature.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Abolitionism and Africa
- Africa and the Atlantic World
- African American Religions
- African Religion and Culture
- America, Pre-Contact
- American Revolution, The
- Army, British
- Atlantic Creoles
- Atlantic Migration
- Atlantic Trade and the British Economy
- Atlantic Trade and the European Economy
- Bacon's Rebellion
- Baltic Sea
- Black Atlantic in the Age of Revolutions, The
- Britain and Empire, 1685-1730
- British Atlantic Architectures
- British Atlantic World
- Buenos Aires in the Atlantic World
- Captivity in Africa
- Captivity in North America
- Caribbean, The
- Cartier, Jacques
- Central Europe and the Atlantic World
- Chartered Companies, British and Dutch
- Class and Social Structure
- Colonial Governance in Spanish America
- Colonialism and Postcolonialism
- Colonization, Ideologies of
- Colonization of English America
- Communications in the Atlantic World
- Comparative Indigenous History of the Americas
- Continental America
- Cook, Captain James
- Credit and Debt
- Criminal Transportation in the Atlantic World
- Crowds in the Atlantic World
- Death in the Atlantic World
- Demography of the Atlantic World
- Diaspora, Jewish
- Diaspora, The Acadian
- Disease in the Atlantic World
- Domestic Production and Consumption in the Atlantic World
- Domestic Slave Trades in the Americas
- Dreams and Dreaming
- Dutch Atlantic World
- Dutch Caribbean and Guianas, The
- Early Modern France
- Economy and Consumption in the Atlantic World
- Economy of British America, The
- Edwards, Jonathan
- Empire and State Formation
- Enlightenment, The
- Environment and the Natural World
- Europe and Africa
- Europe and the Atlantic World, Northern
- Europe and the Atlantic World, Western
- Evangelicalism and Conversion
- Fiscal-Military State
- Forts, Fortresses, and Fortifications
- France and Empire
- Free People of Color
- French Army and the Atlantic World, The
- French Atlantic World
- French Emancipation
- French Revolution, The
- Gender in Iberian America
- Gender in North America
- Gender in the Atlantic World
- Gender in the Caribbean
- George Montagu Dunk, Second Earl of Halifax
- Georgia in the Atlantic World
- Germans in the Atlantic World
- Glorious Revolution
- Godparents and Godparenting
- Great Awakening
- Guianas, The
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Hanoverian Britain
- Iberian Atlantic World, 1600-1800
- Iberian Empires, 1600-1800
- Idea of Atlantic History, The
- Indentured Servitude
- Indentured Servitude in the Atlantic World, Indian
- India, The Atlantic Ocean and
- Ireland and the Atlantic World
- Jefferson, Thomas
- Jews and Blacks
- Labor Systems
- Language, State, and Empire
- Languages, Caribbean Creole
- Latin American Independence
- Law and Slavery
- Legal Culture
- Letters and Letter Writing
- Literature and Culture
- Literature of the British Caribbean
- Literature, Slavery and Colonization
- Louverture, Toussaint
- Maroons and Marronage
- Marriage and Family in the Atlantic World
- Material Culture in the Atlantic World
- Material Culture of Slavery in the British Atlantic
- Medicine in the Atlantic World
- Mental Disorder in the Atlantic World
- Merchants in the Atlantic World
- Merchants' Networks
- Migrations and Diasporas
- Mining, Gold, and Silver
- Missionaries, Native American
- Monroe, James
- Music and Music Making
- Nation, Nationhood, and Nationalism
- Native American Histories in North America
- Native American Religions
- Native Americans and the Atlantic World
- Native Americans in Europe
- Native North American Women
- Natural History
- Networks for Migrations and Mobility
- Networks of Science and Scientists
- New France and Louisiana
- New York City
- Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World
- Nineteenth-Century France
- Northern New Spain
- Novel in the Age of Revolution, The
- Oceanic History
- Pacific, The
- Paine, Thomas
- Papacy and the Atlantic World
- Pets and Domesticated Animals in the Atlantic World
- Plantations in the Atlantic World
- Political Participation in the Nineteenth Century Atlantic...
- Polygamy and Bigamy
- Port Cities, British
- Port Cities, British American
- Port Cities, French
- Port Cities, French American
- Port Cities, Iberian
- Ports, African
- Portugal, Early Modern
- Portuguese Atlantic World
- Poverty in the Early Modern English Atlantic
- Pre-Columbian Transatlantic Voyages
- Print Culture in the British Atlantic
- Proprietary Colonies
- Quebec and the Atlantic World, 1760–1867
- Race and Racism
- Race, The Idea of
- Refugees, Saint-Domingue
- Religion in the British Civil Wars
- Religious Border-Crossing
- Religious Networks
- Representations of Slavery
- Rice in the Atlantic World
- Rio de Janeiro
- Scandinavian Chartered Companies
- Science, History of
- Scotland and the Atlantic World
- Settlement and Region in British America, 1607-1763
- Seven Years' War, The
- Sex and Sexuality in the Atlantic World
- Shakespeare and the Atlantic World
- Ships and Shipping
- Slave Codes
- Slave Owners In The British Atlantic
- Slave Rebellions
- Slave Trade and Natural Science, The
- Slave Trade, The Atlantic
- Slavery, Abolition of
- Slavery and Gender
- Slavery, Atlantic
- Slavery, Health, and Medicine
- Slavery in Africa
- Slavery in British America
- Slavery in British and American Literature
- Slavery in Danish America
- Slavery in Dutch America and the West Indies
- Slavery in North America, The Growth and Decline of
- Slavery in the French Atlantic World
- Slavery, Native American
- Slavery, Public Memory and Heritage of
- Slavery, The Origins of
- Slavery, Urban
- Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts...
- South Atlantic
- South Carolina
- Sovereignty and the Law
- Spain, Early Modern
- Spanish America After Independence, 1825-1900
- Spanish Colonization to 1650
- Subjecthood in the Atlantic World
- Sugar in the Atlantic World
- Texts, Printing, and the Book
- Toleration in the Atlantic World
- Transatlantic Political Economy
- Tudor and Stuart Britain in the Wider World, 1485-1685
- Venezuela and the Atlantic World
- Visual Art and Representation
- War and Trade
- War of 1812
- War of the Spanish Succession
- Warfare in 17th-Century North America
- Warfare, Medicine, and Disease in the Atlantic World
- West Indian Economic Decline
- Whitefield, George
- Whiteness in the Atlantic World
- Witchcraft in the Atlantic World
- Women Prophets