Slaves, commodities and logistics

27 November 2023 - 15:27

How important was Atlantic slavery for the Dutch economy in the eighteenth century?

Atlantic slave labor was the cork that fueled the economy. IISH, Leiden University and VU University Amsterdam  presented the figures on 26 June 2019 at the IISH.

That same week Secretary Van Engelshoven of Education, Culture and Science announced that she wants more attention for the 'black pages' of our past, such as the history of slavery. "The social task is to actually make a shared history into a shared history, [...] for a broadly inclusive audience with the starting point that knowing each other's stories contributes to understanding each other."  

In our opinion, science has a responsibility in this regard. It can make an important contribution to the available knowledge about our past and the current debates. For example about one of the questions that has not been sufficiently investigated to date:
"How important was Atlantic slavery for the Dutch economy in the eighteenth century?"

The IISH, VU University Amsterdam and Leiden University presented the results of a scientific study that answers this question. For the first time, a scientifically substantiated and therefore testable indication is given of the extent to which the Dutch economy profited from Atlantic slavery. This includes, in addition to the slave trade, the trade and processing of goods produced by slaves such as sugar, coffee and tobacco. Using new data, the researchers prove the great weight of slavery-based activities within the Dutch economy. These activities kept the eighteenth-century Dutch economy afloat.

The report was offered to, Alderperson Marjolein Moorman, Linda Nooitmeer, chair of NiNsee and Martine Gosselink, Rijksmuseum. The meeting was moderated by Noraly Beyer.

This five-year research project has been carried out by the IISH, the VU and Leiden University. The research is funded by NWO. The results are published simultaneously in the TSEG/ Low Countries Journal of Social and Economic History  

 Project leads at IISH: Pepijn Brandon and Ulbe Bosma


Slaafgemaakte mannen werken op het land, anoniem, ca. 1850