The Dutch slave trade

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I am immensely proud of my country but like most other nations on earth it does have several black pages in its history books.

Like other European maritime nations, the Dutch were quick to involve themselves in the transtlantic slave trade. Between 1596 and 1829, the Dutch transported about half a million Africans across the Atlantic. Large numbers were taken to the small islands of Curaçao and St. Eustatius, in the Caribbean. Most of the Africans landed there, however, were subsequently trans-shipped to Spanish colonies. The two islands were thus staging posts for the re-sale and dispatch of Africans who survived the Middle Passage to other American slave colonies.

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Dutch involvement in the Atlantic slave trade covers the 17th-19th centuries. Initially the Dutch shipped slaves to northern Brazil, and during the second half of the 17th century they had a controlling interest in the trade to the Spanish colonies. Today’s Suriname and Guyana became prominent markets in the 18th century. Between 1612 and 1872, the Dutch operated from some 10 fortresses along the Gold Coast (now Ghana), from which slaves were shipped across the Atlantic.

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The trade declined between 1780 and 1815. The Dutch part in the Atlantic slave trade is estimated at 5-7 percent, or some 550,000-600,000 Africans.

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The abolition of slavery in British Guyana in 1834 caused an upheaval among people who had little hope of release in the neighbouring district of Nickerie in Surinam. The Dutch authorities reinforced the garrison and took precautionary measures. Even so, rebellion erupted in 1837. Unrest spread to sugar, coffee and tobacco plantations elsewhere in Surinam and some people attempted to escape.

Protests were not unusual on plantations in the West Indies colonies, and they were brutally suppressed. Already in the 18th century small communities had formed in the forests of Surinam of people who had escaped and who regularly raided nearby plantations. While those who had rebelled at Nickerie in 1837 were severely punished, others were rewarded for remaining obedient. This medal was given to George of Leasowes plantation ‘for his proven loyalty to legitimate authority during the disturbances among the slaves in Nickerie’

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On 1 July 1863, slavery was abolished in the former Dutch colonies of Suriname and the Dutch Antilles. This ended  a period of around 200 years of slavery in these colonies

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