Thesis Leo Balai: The Slave Ship Leusden

On January 1, 1738, the slave ship Leusden of the West India Company (WIC) sank off the mouth river of the Marowijne River in Suriname. Of the 716 prisoners embarked in Africa, only 16 survived the disaster. Although it is undoubtedly the greatest tragedy in Dutch shipping history, this disaster is virtually unknown.

The Leusden was one of the last WIC ships to transport slaves and the only one used exclusively for this purpose. On each voyage, the ship transported an average of 660 slaves chained and closely packed to the Caribbean. Once at sea, slave ships were sailing prisons, where a cruel regime reigned. In particular because diseases had free rein in the unhealthy atmosphere of the ship's holds, many slaves did not survive the crossing. From her first voyage in 1720 until her sinking in 1738, the Leusden carried out a total of 10 slave trips, with only 73% of the slaves reaching the other side alive. Very little research has been done to date on the specific ships that made the transatlantic slave trade possible. Perhaps the moral indignation or shame about the phenomenon of slavery has always stood in the way of objective research. Leo Balai, however, discovered several unknown sources, which tell about the actual ins and outs on board of the slave ships.

Source: Balai, L. W. 2011. Het slavenschip Leusden: over de slaventochten en de ondergang van de Leusden, de leefomstandigheden aan boord van slavenschepen en het einde van het slavenhandelsmonopolie van de WIC, 1720-1738. Walburg Pers

Other document: Engelse version of the thesis 'Slave Ship Leusden'. 

Image credits

Icon image: Picryl - WIC