Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

No Interest in Surinam

1 July 1863
Collection Tropenmuseum Amsterdam

After the abolition of slavery on 1 July 1863, former slaves of Surinam were supposed to continue working on their plantation for a period of ten years, in return for a miserable wage. This arrangement, called ’State Supervision’, failed totally. Instead, Surinam experienced an acute labour shortage and its economy collapsed. It was in these circumstances that the Dutch authorities made a counterproductive decision when it consigned the recruitment of foreign workers to private enterprise, since port authorities in foreign countries were reluctant to clear labour migrants through customs and leave them to the whims of private contractors. Only in China were some seaports prepared to give clearance. In Curaçao and the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the Caribbean, among the slaves freed in North America and the British West Indies there was no interest whatsoever in working in Suriname. The ‘Survey of plantations employing immigrants at the end of 1863’ mentions just four Chinese labourers working on the Nieuw Clarenbeek Plantation and one 'African' working on the Lust en Rust Plantation. (Survey in:Koloniaal Verslag aangaande Suriname 1863)