The Global Business of Slave Trade: Patterns, Actors and Gains in the Early Modern Dutch and Iberian Slave Trade

09 November 2023 - 16:22

The research will center around three main regions that are pivotal to improving our understanding of slavery and slave trade east of the Cape of Good Hope, namely the trade from and to South and Eastern Africa, the South China Sea, and the Indonesian archipelago.

This project will focus on the following key questions:

  1. What where the patterns of slave trade in the Indian Ocean, Indonesian archipelago and South China Sea (where were enslaved bought and where were they transported to)?
  2. How was this commerce organized and by whom (peoples of Asian and African origin alongside Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish)?
  3. What did those actors gain and loose? (E.g. economic power, political power and leverage, social prestige and upward mobility?)
  4. How deeply involved in this business were the Dutch, the Portuguese, and the Spanish, the English and the French, and what did this mean for the economies of their empires?

Subproject 1: Analyzing and Reconstructing Slave Trade (PD1; SA1)

This subproject will reconstruct the main patterns of slave trade in three main Asian regions: South and Eastern Africa, South China Sea and the Indonesian Archipelago.

Subproject 2: The Business of Slave Trade in Portuguese Asia – Explanations and Consequences (PhD 1)

This subproject will examine and explain what were the patterns of slave trade in selected key regions related to the Portuguese Asian empire. It will contribute to the debates on slavery and capitalism by explaining how was this business organized, and what were its long-term consequences.

Subproject 3: Gains from Indian Ocean Slave Trade: A new framework of analysis (PI)

The main aim is to development of a new framework of analysis for the study of gains from slave trading in the Indian Ocean and its main actors, focusing not only on those directly involved in this commerce, but also those indirectly involved.

Subproject 4: Synthesis (PI and team members)

This subproject will deal the organization of a workshop and the preparation of a collaborative edited volume involving all team members, and presenting a synthesis of the project main scientific achievements.

Subproject 5: Outreach (Public)

This subproject will create a first basic, but easy to use interface to make the dataset on Asian slave trades available to the academic community and the wider public. With this goal in mind the team will actively work to develop a trilingual version of the interface and the ESTA website. In Netherlands, specifically, we will organize a series of public debates together with stakeholder groups of Asian origin.

Team:   PI: Filipa Ribeiro da Silva; PhD Candidate: Philipp Huber; Postdoc: tba; Research Assistant: tba; Other project members: Merve Tosun, Matthias van Rossum, Ulbe Bosma

Funding Institution: NWO,  SSH Open Competition M 2022 – Philosophy, Historical and Religious Science

Duration: 4 years

Main outputs

- a new set of slave trade voyages to be added to the ESTA database; a Digital Humanities article; a Forum/Thematic dossier on the reconstruction of Asian slave trade on a peer-reviewed international journal; a PhD dissertation; and edited volume.

Detail of painting slave trade