This 6 November 2017 Dutch video is about the new book Sporen van de slavernij in Leiden, Traces of slavery in Leiden.
The history of Dutch city Leiden at first sight seems to have little to do with slavery. Already since the 16th century, slavery was illegal in the Netherlands itself; though legal in the overseas colonies until 1863. The ships of the Dutch transatlantic slave trade departed from seaboard harbours; inland Leiden did not have such a harbour. The slogan of Leiden University was and is: Praesidium Libertatis, bulwark of freedom. Slavery surely does not agree with that?
However, recently a book came out, Sporen van de slavernij in Leiden. It is by Leiden historians Karwan Fatah-Black and Geert Oostindie.
Leiden citizen Johannes de Laet was one of the founders of the transatlantic slave trading Dutch West India Company (WIC), founded in 1621. The Leiden city government invested so much money in that company that it was represented on the WIC board.
The Couderc-Temming couple were rich slave owners in 18th century colonial Suriname. After her husband died, widow Johanna Baldina Temming moved to Leiden. She had three servants there. One of them free; two others slaves. Not legal; but it still was like that.
How about Leiden university?
This photo shows a stained glass window in the Groot Auditorium, the most important hall of Leiden university. It shows famous Dutch jurist Hugo de Groot (Grotius, 1583-1645), who studied law at Leiden university. In his hands, his book De juri belli ac pacis. In that book, De Groot defended slavery.
Hugo de Groot was not by any means the last ex-Leiden student defending slavery.
This 1687 painting by Michiel van Musscher depicts diplomat Thomas Hees, who had studied philosophy and medicine in Leiden. It also depicts Hees’ two nephews and, in the background, ‘Thomas the negro’, his African slave.
Samuel Arnoldus Coerman, born in Curaçao, studied law in Leiden. In Dutch law, there was no difference between black and white people. Coerman went back to Curaçao as public prosecutor, intending to make that law work. However, the practice of the Curaçao slavery-based society and its court soon disillusioned him. He went back to Leiden, where he died in 1821, 41 years old.
Johan Rudolph Thorbecke (1798-1872) studied at Leiden university and later became a professor there. He became the leader of the Dutch liberal party and managed to limit the power of the monarchy and increase the power of parliament in 1848, when revolutions all over Europe scared the king into making concessions.
However, Thorbecke was not as progressive on slavery as on the parliament-monarchy relationship. He saw slaves mainly as property, and according to his bourgeois liberalism, property was sacrosanct.