In This Article Slavery in Dutch America and the West Indies

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Dutch Brazil
  • West Africa and the Dutch Forts
  • Abolition

Atlantic History Slavery in Dutch America and the West Indies
by
Victor Enthoven
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0230

Introduction

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.

General Overviews

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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    E-mail Citation »

    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.

    DOI: 10.1163/9789004259799E-mail Citation »

    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.

    DOI: 10.1163/13822373-90002465E-mail Citation »

    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.

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