Slavery in Amsterdam

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

On Tuesday, Amsterdam’s Municipal Archive presented a map of locations where slave owners lived in 1863, the year slavery was officially abolished.

A team of researchers, headed by history professor Dienke Hondius of Amsterdam's Free University, has collected around 80 names and addresses of slave owners, all of which are shown on the map.

No research has ever been done before into where slave owners lived when slavery was abolished, says Professor Hondius. These slave owners had representatives in Suriname and the Antilles, where the slaves were kept. By shifting attention to the owners, the history of slavery is moved back to Europe, the researchers say.

When slavery was abolished, owners received compensation; the slaves received nothing at all. Because information about the compensation was archived, Professor Hondius and researchers from the National Archive and Amsterdam’s Municipal Archive were able to find the addresses of the slave owners by cross-referencing with municipal population registers.

Back in the 17th and 18th centuries, many Dutch slave owners lived in the capital because Amsterdam was part owner of Suriname. At the same time, the number of slave owners was growing because of an increase in economic activity and deeper involvement of Amsterdam’s families and firms. When it became clear at the end of the 19th century that slavery would come to an end, many traders and owners sold their shares, interests and their slaves.

History of slavery
The presentation of the map with 80 names and addresses is just the first step in the project; Professor Hondius and her team want to compile maps showing where all 17th and 18th century slave owners lived. The researchers hope the current occupants, owners or passers-by will want share their knowledge about the people who used to live at these locations. "That way, we can create a better picture of Amsterdam’s history of slavery, which has up to now been almost invisible.''

Next year, the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery will be commemorated. The Amsterdam Museum will mark locations in the city which were once connected with slavery.