News item IISG

Book presentation on Amsterdam's involvement in Slavery: 'De Slavernij in Oost en West: het Amsterdam onderzoek'

20 October 2020

On Tuesday 29 September, the International Institute of Social History (an Academy institute) presented 'De Slavernij in Oost en West: Het Amsterdam onderzoek' (Slavery in East and West: The Amsterdam investigation). The book, compiled by Pepijn Brandon, Guno Jones, Nancy Jouwe and Matthias van Rossum, offers a first overview of the full scale of Amsterdam's involvement in slavery and the slave trade.

IISG presenteert: De Slavernij in Oost en West: het Amsterdam-onderzoek

Photo: Melle Meivogel

The resulting image will even provide many specialists with new insight into the extent and scope of Amsterdam's history of slavery. The most important conclusion of the book is that the Amsterdam city council was directly involved in the slave trade and slavery in many respects on a worldwide, large-scale and long-term basis.

Senior investigator Pepijn Brandon: "Never before has there been such a broad study. The study focuses on the questions of how the Amsterdam city council was involved in the slave trade and slavery in the Atlantic region and Asia, and how this role is evident in the impact of that past on today's city. Forty-one experts each shed light on one aspect. Together, these contributions show the extent of Amsterdam's administrative involvement in slavery, in both East and West, and that this has left significant marks on the city.”

The first two copies of the book were presented to Mayor Femke Halsema and executive councillor for diversity Rutger Groot Wassink. Mayor Femke Halsema: “The slave trade and slavery were intertwined with the city and the city council. This is the inescapable conclusion we can draw today. It was not something that took place in distant countries, out of the sight of the people of Amsterdam. The investigation has taught us that we can no longer put this part of history in a separate compartment of our history books. Not ‘that black page’ that we can turn quickly. It is extremely important that a wider audience can now take note of what happened. Not because people should feel ashamed or guilty, but because we want to be aware of our identity, as a city and as a city council.”

The book is the result of a research assignment granted by the Amsterdam city council to the International Institute of Social History in the autumn of 2019 and it offers new insights into the extent and scope of Amsterdam's history of slavery. The investigation provides a basis for decision-making within the Amsterdam city council about possible apologies for the role of its predecessors in the slave trade and slavery.

The book can be ordered from publisher Het Spectrum.

About the International Institute of Social History (IISG)

The International Institute of Social History (IISG-KNAW) is an Academy research institute. IISG is one of the most prestigious social history research institutes worldwide. It examines how work and labour relations have developed globally over time. To support its research, it collects archives and data from all over the world. The relationship between its research and its data and archive collections contributes substantially to the institute’s unique nature.