Pulicat en de vergeten Indiase slavenhandel

In 1619, the Dutch East India Company had sacked and destroyed the Javanese city of Jayakarta, and in its place, they built a new settlement known as Batavia. All the native Javanese were expelled from the new city and forbidden from entering the city walls. The Dutch needed labour to work in their factories, warehouses, plantations and homes, and hence they began importing slaves. Initially, African slaves were imported from Portuguese-controlled Mozambique. But this proved unviable as most of them died during the long voyages and terrible conditions out at sea. Hence they decided to import slaves from India. By the 1620s, letters were being sent by officials in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) to the Dutch factories in Masulipatnam and Pulicat, to procure as many slaves as possible. On 8th May1622, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, Jan Pieterzoon Coen, sent a stern letter to officials in India. It read: “The Muy (ship) is being sent to Coromandel to bring back as many slaves – young males and females as possible… Batavia (Jakarta) had expected to get no less than 1,000 slaves, but we have received only 124. It is a matter of great shame that such an important matter has been treated so lightly.” During this time, the Dutch were frantically trying to buy as many slaves as possible from the Coromandel coast. William Methwold, a British merchant living in Masulipatnam between 1618 and 1622, wrote about how Indian traders carried rice and grain in the hinterland, “taking children in exchange, which cost not them above three or foure shillings a childe, and they sell againe in Masulipatnam and other places for forty shillings”. Similarly, Thomas Mills, another British merchant who lived in Pulicat in 1622, wrote about how the Dutch were ordered “to buy as manye as possible can be procured, to the nomber of four or five thousand”. Mills noted how a Dutch ship named New Zealand had sailed for Batavia from Pulicat with 460 slaves, and was planning to load 650 more at Tegnapatnam.

Akshay Chavan in Pulicat & the Forgotten Indian Slave Trade (Live history India)