Slaves, Commodities and Logistics

The direct and indirect, the immediate and long-term economic impact of eighteenth-century Dutch Republic transatlantic slave-based activities

How much did The Netherlands earn from slavery?

The Netherlands abolished slavery exactly 150 years ago, but controversy continues about how much the country actually earned from slavery and the slave trade. The IISG, VU University Amsterdam and Leiden University intend to clarify this issue. These institutions recently received a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for a major research project on the economic impact of slavery in the Netherlands.

Although the public’s interest in this question is significant, the academic world has thus far failed to recognize the relevance of the matter. Recent preliminary estimates suggest that the benefits from Atlantic slave-based commerce were more robust than those of the illustrious Dutch East India Company.

Researching the economic impact of eighteenth-century slave-based activities

The project titled ‘Slaves, Commodities and Logistics: the direct and indirect, the immediate and long-term economic impact of eighteenth-century Dutch Republic transatlantic slave-based activities’ examines the importance of slavery related industry and trade for the Dutch economy in the 18th century.

Not only does this program examine the immediate benefits of the slave trade and the proceeds from the plantations, but also the indirect benefits, such as favorable effects on employment in shipyards and at suppliers. Furthermore, a reconstruction of the profits earned through the Dutch export of goods manufactured by slaves (coffee, sugar and tobacco) is made. Thirdly, the program focuses on the insurance and banking industry and the maritime sector, which could flourish thanks to the Atlantic trade. This study also raises the question to what extent the development of the port of Rotterdam is boosted by its role in the eighteenth-century Atlantic economy.

Research applicants

The project is an initiative of the International Institute of Social History. The applicants are: prof. dr. Marcel van der Linden (IISG), prof. dr. Henk den Heijer (Leiden University), prof. dr. Karel Davids (VU University Amsterdam). At the VU University, prof. Karel Davids and postdoc researcher dr. Pepijn Brandon work at this project.

Links