White Lies and Black Markets

Evading Metropolitan Authority in Colonial Suriname, 1650-1800


In White Lies and Black Markets, Fatah-Black offers a new account of the colonization of Suriname—one of the major European plantation colonies on the Guiana Coast—in the period between 1650-1800. While commonly portrayed as an isolated tropical outpost, this study places the colony in the context of its connections to the rest of the Atlantic world. These economic and migratory links assured the colony’s survival, but also created many incentives to evade the mercantilistically inclined metropolitan authorities.

By combining the available data on Dutch and North American shipping with accounts of major political and economic developments, the author uncovers a hitherto hidden world of illicit dealings, and convincingly argues that these illegal practices were essential to the development and survival of the colony, and woven into the fabric of the colonial project itself.

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Karwan Fatah-Black, Ph.D. (2013), Leiden University, is a researcher and lecturer at that university. He has published on early modern maritime, colonial and Dutch history.
"Fatah-Black’s work is important and valuable in moving this interesting phase of Surinamese history away from being thought of in terms of colonial or frontier history and seeing it instead as the study of Atlantic nodes of interaction in an integrating Atlantic economic network of trade, both legal and illegal." — Trevor Burnard, University of Melbourne, in: Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis / The Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History, 13:2 (2016), pp.103–104
"Karwan Fatah-Black’s White Lies and Black Markets provides a convincing case study, giving fascinating insights into the development of the early modern Dutch colony of Suriname as a product of – largely illegal – transimperial Atlantic connections." — Felicia Gottmann, in: Journal of World History, 29:4 (2018), pp. 574-584
All interested in the early modern European colonization in the Atlantic world and more specifically the history of North American traders and smugglers in the Caribbean, the Dutch in the Atlantic, and Suriname in the age of slavery.