Cursed Capital: The Economic Impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on Walcheren around 1770

Lecture, 10 May 2016, Wageningen, Netherlands

On May 10th, Gerhard de Kok (Leiden University) will give a lecture on: “Cursed Capital: The Economic Impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on Walcheren around 1770”

Date: May 10th, 2016
Time: 12.30-14.00 hrs
Place: room C76, Leeuwenborch

This lecture is part of the monthly RHI Seminar series. In principle, seminars take place every second Tuesday of the month. The seminar is open to the public, but with regard to accommodation and distribution of the paper in advance, we would like you to give notice of attention to the RHI Secretariat.


The island of Walcheren in the province of Zeeland was the largest Dutch slaving center in the eighteenth century. Merchants from the cities of Flushing and Middelburg fitted out more than 500 slaving voyages after the liberalization of the slave trade in 1730, which constituted between 65 and 70 percent of the entire Dutch slave trade in that period.
While the profitability of the trade itself was limited, it had important local economic effects on Walcheren. A clue comes from the excellently preserved archive of the largest slave trader: the Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie (MCC). The financial accounts of the MCC provide a unique view on the day-to-day operations of large slaving company.
Its correspondence and ledgers reveal that many local suppliers were involved in the slave trade. Combining the figures in the MCC archive with some experimental calculations, I estimate that around 1770 about a tenth of the income earned by inhabitants of Middelburg was dependent on the trade in enslaved Africans. For the more specialized and smaller city of Flushing, this figure was likely closer to a third of all income.