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Africans in the Early Modern Netherlands

Dienke Hondius

The Netherlands, Zeeland, Africa and America have at least four centuries of common history. It is likely that in Zeeland, the southwest province of the Netherlands, earlier than elsewhere a substantial group of African men, women and children have landed. Their stories are hardly known. This paper reconstructs the landing in Middelburg of a group of 130 Africans in 1596.

Aboard a Portuguese slave ship, they were kidnapped by a Dutch captain who tried to sell his human cargo in Zeeland. The local authorities refused permission to sell and proclaimed freedom for the Africans. This story is remembered mostly in local history as an indication of anti-slavery attitudes in The Netherlands. What happened to this group after they set foot in Europe? New archival research is presented, and the results are put into context and compared with histories of other Africans who entered the Netherlands as individuals in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Larger research interests:
History of the idea and practice of "race" and race relations since 1600, with particular focus on Dutch/African/American histories. History of racism and anti-semitism. History of paternalism. Children in the Translatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery.

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