From Valuable Merchandise to Violent Rebels
Depicting Enslaved Africans in the Dutch Periodical Press in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
From the moment the Dutch West Indian Company formally entered the slave trade in 1637, the Dutch periodical press consistently carried reports on slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. This article offers a long-term analysis of this coverage in the Dutch Republic, showing for the first time how the representation of slavery developed over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It demonstrates, first, that through the periodical press, knowledge of slavery was more widely spread in the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century than is often assumed. The consistent, if intermittent, newspaper coverage meant that – well before the debates on abolition emerged – Dutch readers would be familiar with stereotypes of enslaved Africans as valuable merchandise or violent rebels. Second, this article argues that, in the second half of the eighteenth century, the periodical press offered its readers an ambiguous and contradictory image of slavery, contributing, on the one hand, to a public discourse underpinning slavery by depicting enslaved Africans as violent rebels, while at the same time covering political debates on the abolition of slavery.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Esther Baakman
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