New book ‘Colonialism and Slavery’ reflects the dark pages of Rotterdam’s past

Leiden University Press

The newly published book Colonialism and slavery: an alternative history of the port city of Rotterdam is different from most urban histories. It directs its attention exclusively to Rotterdam’s relation to colonialism and slavery. In doing so, it provides a surprising perspective on the history and legacy of imperialist Rotterdam, which continue to dictate today’s economic, political, architectural and artistic dimensions. The book (edited by Gert Oostindie) includes contributions from prof.dr. Alex van Stipriaan and prof.dr. Paul van de Laar from the department of History at Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC).

Behind the veil of impressive port operations, a ‘hard work’ attitude, the beautiful skyline, eye-catching buildings, tourist attractions and an emphasis on its multicultural character, Rotterdam hosts substantial economic inequity, political polarisation and metropolitan problems. The recognition of the negative side of Rotterdam’s success is inextricably connected with a reconsideration of the city’s colonial history.

In 2020, the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) completed an investigation into Rotterdam’s history of colonialism and slavery. The outcomes were documented in three Dutch publications. With the coming-to-be of the present, English-written Colonialism and Slavery, the contributors wish to diffuse the relevant implications across borders.

One of the Dutch works was a monograph written by prof.dr. Alex van Stipriaan (ESHCC) called Rotterdam in slavernij (‘Rotterdam in slavery’). This book forms the basis of the chapter ‘Rotterdam and transatlantic slavery’ in Colonialism and Slavery, in which Van Stipriaan provides a concise summary of the fundamental points. Prof.dr. Paul van de Laar (ESHCC) was one of the editors of the third Dutch publication: Rotterdam, een postkoloniale stad in beweging (‘Rotterdam, a dynamic postcolonial city’). The essential elements of this publication are synthesised in the last chapter of Colonialism and Slavery: ‘The road is mine: the summer carnival as a case study for postcolonial Rotterdam’.

The investigation is of great significance in Rotterdam’s quest to become an inclusive city and the ongoing debate about how it deals with and narrates its past. This aspiration to diversity and inclusivity – and with that the relevance of this book – also echoes within the walls of ESHCC and of Erasmus University as a whole.

Colonialism and slavery: an alternative history of the port city of Rotterdam is published by Leiden University Press.


Porf.dr. Paul van de Laar


Prof.dr. Alex van Stipriaan

More information

ISBN: 9789087283704

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