Dutch king continued slave trade after official ban

This video is called Journey through Slavery episode 1/4 – Terrible Transformation.

This morning, researcher Cordula Rooijendijk presented her new book Vrije jongens [‘Free boys’] about big businessmen in Dutch history, on Dutch VPRO TV.

One of the people in that book is shipping magnate Anthony van Hoboken (1756-1850). After the Dutch East Indies Company went bankrupt in 1799, Van Hoboken took over much of their business, especially to the colonies in Indonesia.

From Indonesia, van Hoboken imported not only colonial plantation goods like coffee, sugar or spice, but also exotic birds, monkeys, elephants and rhinos.

Van Hoboken traded in slaves as well, as Ms Rooijendijk said.

Officially, the Dutch government of King William I had abolished the intercontinental slave trade in June 1814.

However, 1825-1830 there was an uprising against Dutch colonialism in Java, and there were other wars in Indonesia. Many Dutch soldiers died from tropical diseases. The Dutch government thought African soldiers would be better suited to the climate in Indonesia.

So, they tried to convince West Africans to volunteer for war in Indonesia. This was not 100% voluntary, as these were mainly Africans with debts to Dutch merchants, which the Africans could pay off by becoming soldiers.

King William I thought there were far too little African volunteers for fighting in Indonesia. Therefore, in the 1830s, Van Hoboken started to buy slaves and to transport them to the war zones in Indonesia. Van Hoboken did that with royal consent, even though the king had agreed in 1814 to stop the intercontinental slave trade.

‘INSURANCE POLICIES ON SLAVES: NEW YORK LIFE’S COMPLICATED PAST’ “In its 19th-century beginnings, New York Life Insurance sold 508 policies covering slaves. Their descendants are grappling with it.” [NYT]

34 thoughts on “Dutch king continued slave trade after official ban

  1. I’m no expert on the subject but would guess most slave traders kept it going long after abolition. In many cases all it took was a little tweaking of blurred lines – case in point – the share cropper system of indenture.


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