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Groningen and its residents became rich from trade in enslaved people

30 June 2023

Research into the archives of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch West India Company (WIC) shows that the city of Groningen and several residents of Groningen were involved in the trade and exploitation of enslaved people. Historians dr Anjana Singh and Bram Tánczos, both from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Groningen, and Lieuwe Jongsma, curator of the Groninger Museum, recently presented the interim results of their research into the city's history of slavery. They are conducting their research on behalf of the municipality of Groningen.

How was Groningen involved in slavery? Who profited from the trade in enslaved people? Was the city of Groningen involved in slavery and the slave trade, and did the city benefit from investments in the VOC and the WIC? Since June of last year, Anjana Singh, Bram Tánczos, and Lieuwe Jongsma have been searching for answers to these and other questions.

Dutch East India Company

The initial results show that several prominent residents of Groningen were employed by and invested money in the VOC, the Dutch East India Company, which was responsible for fifteen to thirty percent of the total transatlantic slave trade. Children from regent families such as Fockens, Sichterman, Alting, and Van Imhoff created networks that led to a flow of wealth into Groningen. Singh says, "They accumulated their wealth in Asia and used it to gain influence and prestige in Groningen. In Asia, they owned dozens of enslaved people who worked as cooks, gardeners, and coachmen, and also performed heavy labor. Being served by enslaved people was part of their daily life in Asia."

The research also shows that Groningen's interests in the VOC were represented by its own representative in the Zeeland Chamber of the VOC. "Bram Tánczos' research shows that there were three layers of involvement with the VOC: Groningers who served overseas, Asian wealth and resources flowing back to Groningen, and direct financial interests of the city government in the VOC through the Zeeland Chamber," says Singh.

Dutch West India Company

In 1621, Groningen established its own administrative division, a Chamber, in the Dutch West India Company (WIC). The WIC Chamber of Stad en Lande was governed by several directors, who met at the WIC offices on Munnekeholm in the city. The WIC was responsible for the transportation and sale of approximately 300,000 enslaved people. "To become a director, someone had to invest money in the chamber. The directors largely came from the city's wealthy upper class. Lieuwe Jongsma's research shows that both the city and the directors profited from their investments in the WIC," says Singh.

Taxation on coffee and tobacco

The city also indirectly benefited from slavery by imposing taxes on tobacco and coffee sold in the city. "Coffee and tobacco were produced on plantations maintained by enslaved people," says Singh. "These taxes provided a stable source of income for the city. And, of course, wealthy residents of Groningen consumed luxury goods that arrived here from overseas trade with Asia, Africa, and North and South America."

Keti Koti

Anjana Singh, Bram Tánczos, and Lieuwe Jongsma presented their interim results at the Groninger Museum on Sunday, 25 June, leading up to Keti Koti on 1 July. Keti Koti is the Dutch national commemoration and celebration of the abolition of slavery in Suriname and the Dutch Antilles in 1863, which is also commemorated and celebrated in Groningen. The researchers expect to complete their research on Groningen's history of slavery by the end of the year.

Last modified:12 July 2023 1.24 p.m.
View this page in: Nederlands

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