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date: 30 June 2022

The Dutch Slave Trade in the Atlantic, 1600–1800locked

The Dutch Slave Trade in the Atlantic, 1600–1800locked

  • Pieter EmmerPieter EmmerProfessor Emeritus of History, Leiden University
  •  and Henk den HeijerHenk den HeijerProfessor Emeritus of Maritime History, Leiden University

Summary

The Dutch share in the Atlantic slave trade averaged about 5 to 6 percent of the total, but the volume differed sharply over time. The beginning of the Dutch transatlantic slave trade can be dated to 1636, after the Dutch West India Company (WIC) had acquired its own plantation colony around Recife in Brazil. In order to set up a regular trade in slaves, the WIC also took Elmina on the Gold Coast and Luanda in Angola from the Portuguese. The slave trade to Dutch Brazil was short-lived, and after the loss of Dutch Brazil and Luanda, the WIC as well as private merchants from Amsterdam started to sell slaves to colonists in the Spanish, English, and French Caribbean via Curaçao, the WIC trade hub in the region. In 1667, in addition to the small colonies of Berbice and Essequibo, the Dutch conquered Suriname and during the 18th century established Demerara. The Dutch slave trade became more and more focused on these plantation colonies.

Between 1700 and 1725, after the Dutch had been banned from selling slaves in foreign colonies, the Dutch slave trade declined, but the volume increased again after 1730 when the WIC lost its monopoly and private shipping companies were allowed to enter the trade. In addition, Amsterdam-based investors poured money into the Dutch plantation colonies expecting windfall profits from a new cash crop: coffee. These profits did not materialize, and the majority of the planters in the Dutch plantation colonies went bankrupt. These bankruptcies, another war with Britain, and the French occupation caused the Dutch slave trade to decline sharply. The last Dutch slave ship sailed to Suriname in 1802. In 1814, the Dutch government yielded to British abolitionist pressure and abolished the slave trade in the hope of regaining its colonial possessions occupied by Britain.

Subjects

  • African Diaspora
  • Slavery and Slave Trade
  • West Africa

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