A better insight into how slavery shaped Mauritius’ society

Date of news: 2 October 2020

On 30 September, the digital scans on slavery in Dutch Mauritius were handed over by the National Archives of the Netherlands to the archives of the Republic of Mauritius in an online ceremony. The transfer was made possible thanks to the work of historian Joël Edouard of Radboud University, who researched and translated the archival documents in the VOC archive. Mauritius was a Dutch colony between 1638 and 1710. Edouard's research proved that the island has been continuously inhabited since Dutch times. The research provides more insight into how the multicultural society of Mauritius came about.

Edouard, who himself was born and raised in the Republic of Mauritius, taught himself seventeenth-century Dutch in order to translate the VOC archives about IMG_4181the island. When the first Dutch arrived in Mauritius in 1598, the island had no inhabitants. Enslaved workers were deployed for the work on the sugar plantations founded by the Dutch.

Edouard's research has now shown for the first time that there is a continuity between Dutch Mauritius and French Mauritius (which formally took over the island a few years after the departure of the Dutch). Escaped enslaved persons and deserted sailors from all corners of the world (Africa, India, Madagascar, Indonesia and Europe) colonized the interior of the island during the Dutch period.

Origin Mauritian society

This multicultural community continued to exist in Mauritius when the Dutch left NL-HaNA_1.04.01_136_00004000289and form a foundation for modern Mauritian society. This is big news for Mauritius and the archives were received with enthusiasm.

On September 30, 422 years after the landing of the Dutch in Mauritius, an online transfer of the scans took place, involving two ministers and the rector of the University of Mauritius. From the Netherlands, the National Archives, the Dutch Embassy in Tanzania and Radboud University were represented at the ceremony.

For the project, Edouard made an inventory of more than 700 documents from the VOC archives in The Hague, in particular from the so-called ‘Overgekomen brieven en papieren uit Indië aan de Heren XVII en de kamer Amsterdam 1614 – 1794’. Results of the project will be published shortly.

Joël Edouard is a PhD candidate at the Radboud Group for Historical Demography and Family History and the Research Institute for Culture and History at the Faculty of Arts of Radboud University. His research is part of a broader research project led by historian Coen van Galen of Radboud University into the slavery past of former Dutch colonies.

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