Slave trading and slavery in the Dutch colonial empire: A global comparison

In: New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids
Rik van Welie .

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Compares slave trading and slavery in the Dutch colonial empire, specifically between the former trading and territorial domains of the West India Company (WIC), the Americas and West Africa, and of the East India Company (VOC), South East Asia, the Indian Ocean region, and South and East Africa. Author presents the latest quantitative assessments concerning the Dutch transatlantic as well as Indian Ocean World slave trade, placing the volume, direction, and characteristics of the forced migration in a historical context. He describes how overall the Dutch were a second-rate player in Atlantic slavery, though in certain periods more important, with according to recent estimates a total of about 554.300 slaves being transported by the Dutch to the Americas. He indicates that while transatlantic slave trade and slavery received much scholarly attention resulting in detailed knowledge, the slave trade and slavery in the Indian Ocean World by the Dutch is comparatively underresearched. Based on demand-side estimates throughout Dutch colonies of the Indonesian archipelago and elsewhere, he deduces that probably close to 500.000 slaves were transported by the Dutch in the Indian Ocean World. In addition, the author points at important differences between the nature and contexts of slavery, as in the VOC domains slavery was mostly of an urban and domestic character, contrary to its production base in the Americas. Slavery further did in the VOC areas not have a rigid racial identification like in WIC areas, with continuing, postslavery effects, and allowed for more flexibility, while unlike the plantation colonies in the Caribbean, as Suriname, not imported slaves but indigenous peoples formed the majority. He also points at relative exceptions, e.g. imported slaves for production use in some VOC territories, as the Banda islands and the Cape colony, and a certain domestic and urban focus of slavery in Curaçao.

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