The research report was published on Wednesday state and slavery. It offers a first look at the profits the Oranges made from colonization and the slave trade: between 1675 and 1770 the family converted to current currencies, and made no less than 545 million euros.
The research was commissioned by the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations. What does this “colonial profit” of more than half a billion euros mean for the descendants of slaves and for scholars?
The main thing is that there is still a lot that is not clear. This report is just the beginning. Many sources of income require further research, such as those of the West India Company, Societeit van Suriname, and other companies.
Anthropologist Mitchell Isagas of The Black Archives says the €545m did not surprise him. “It has confirmed what many people from the Surinamese and Caribbean community at least suspected. You now have the numbers to support the suspicions.”
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Isagas believes that the apologies made by Prime Minister Rutte in December are important. “But what does this mean if no form of recovery is attached to it? Because this awareness fund of 200 million euros is an affront. They are crumbs if you compare it to the profits and revenues it has brought to the state,” says the anthropologist. “Recovery is a broad package process and ultimately comes with a price. But it is not a one-time financial transaction.”
“We already knew that the royal house had taken money from slavery. But we didn’t know yet that the amount was so high,” says Angelique Duijndam, chairwoman of the Kitti Koti Festival Remembrance of Slavery, in Zeeland. On Thursday, Zeeland announced that the provincial government would apologize for past slavery during Kiti Koti on July 1. Most of the Dutch slave ships departed from this province in the second half of the eighteenth century.
Dugendam is particularly curious about the research by historian Geert Oostende. “This investigation will be more complete, because this amount hasn’t mentioned anything yet. Many parts are not yet involved.” She believes it is important to do this research.
“For me as a descendant of enslaved people, it’s an acknowledgment of the past, but it also provides more opportunities to delve deeper into my history. When I look up my family tree, I can look no further than 1800.” Dugendam hoped to obtain an apology from King Willem-Alexander during his speech in Amsterdam at the official ceremony of slavery. In this way he does not stray from the story of his predecessors.
Maritime historian Gerhard de Kock earned his PhD from Leiden University on research into the transatlantic slave trade in Walcheren in Zeeland, the island where the towns of Middelburg, Ferry, and Vlissingen are located. His research shows that around 1770 both Middelburg and Vlissingen relied heavily on the slave trade economically.
He also found a relationship with oranges. When the slave trade in Zeeland was going badly around 1750, William IV made a personal effort to improve the situation. “The governor opened negotiations to obtain some kind of government aid for the slave traders.”
back to state and slavery De Kok sees €545m as impressive. “It’s an exciting starting point for further research, based on archival finds. But it’s not that we now know exactly what happened. For example, it’s difficult to convert the value of money hundreds of years ago into euros.” De Kok therefore believes that more research is needed to see how oranges benefit colonies.
However, he believes that colonial history has rightfully become a topical topic in recent decades. “Because for so long historiography was one-sided. It was often a story of white men going around the world and achieving economic success.”
Until recently, attention to the shadow aspects of that date has been found limited. “Dutch society has of course changed and become more diverse. So there is a great demand for historiography from multiple perspectives. And that makes a lot of sense, because all of these perspectives are part of the story of the Dutch past.”
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