Amsterdam’s involvement in slavery is greater than expected


The National Slavery History Monument is a monument in the Oosterpark in Amsterdam to commemorate the abolition of slavery in the Dutch Kingdom.

New research into slavery shows that Amsterdam’s involvement in this is much more widespread than previously thought. Amsterdam was not only involved in slavery in Suriname, but also in Curaçao, Indonesia, South Africa, Taiwan, Brazil and in North America.

Pepijn Brandon, who is researching slavery for the International Institute of Social History, came to this conclusion. He is one of the book’s four editors Slavery in the East and West.

Brandon is a senior researcher at the aforementioned institute and a specialist in the history of capitalism, warfare and Atlantean slavery. He is an assistant professor at the Free University and has also taught at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard, among others. The book was handed over to the Amsterdam mayor Halsema on Tuesday afternoon.

For three hundred years, the city of Amsterdam was a player in the slave trade and slavery in the East and West. But what political and personal role did the administrators of the city actually play in this? To what extent did slavery influence the development of Amsterdam and its inhabitants? And how did the choices of Amsterdam administrators affect the lives of the hundreds of thousands of enslaved people in America, Africa and Asia? And finally: does this past still affect the city today?

In the book Slavery in the East and West 40 experts tries to find answers to these kinds of questions. Using accessible written essays, they shed light on Amsterdam’s worldwide slavery past from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, and its significance today.

The research assignment came from the Mayor and Aldermen and could be the impetus for any apologies for the role played by the municipality in this black page in the history books, writes Het Parool.

The book can be ordered here via

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