November 29, 2017

Sweden and the slave trade

Filed under: race — ABRAXAS @ 9:12 am

“Sweden may be the least known of the European countries that engaged in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. For a long time there was silence in Swedish history books and public knowledge on its past role in the common European project of enslaving and colonizing the world. However a change is on its way in Sweden, in particular spurred by the 2007 international observance of 200 years since Britisch parliamentary decision to abolisch the slave trade and through independent research and NGO campaigning. But resistance to recognition of facts and a full understanding of Sweden’s active role and participation in this joint European enterprise remain very strong.
The transatlantic slave trade – the African holocaust – was the largest transposition of people in history and resulted in death and degradation for innumerable millions of Africans. Portugal and Spain initiated the slave trade between Africa and America as early as the late 1400s, followed by Great Britain in the 1500s and Holland, France, Denmark and Sweden in the 1600s.
1646 – The first Swedish slave trade expedition to Africa is organised by the merchant and iron works owner Louis de Geer. The government issues sea passports. Slaves are taken in Africa and traded for sugar in the West Indies. Upon arrival in Stockholm 1647, sugar, gold, ivory and four enslaved Africans are handed over to Swedish Chansellor Axel Oxenstierna.
1649 – The Swedish African Company (Svenska Afrikanska Kompaniet) is granted its priveleges from Queen Kristina. Louis de Geer becomes the main owner with other Swedish nobility as partners. As of 1654 the company is for all practical purposes managed by the national Board of Trade.
1650 – Sweden and the African Company come to agreement with the king of Fetu in Ghana to be granted Cabo Corso as a Swedish colony. A large Swedish fort is built, Carolusborg, and trading posts are established at several places along the coast, including Accra. The African Company carry on slave trade and export enslaved Africans to both the West Indies and Portuguese plantations on Sao Tome where the slaves are exchanged for sugar.
1663 – The AFrican Company gets chased away from Cabo Corso by the Africans. The Swedish castle is taken over by the Dutch, later by the English who make it their headquarters for the African slave trade. Hundred of thousands of enslaved Africans are shipped from Cape Coast Castle, formerly Carolusborg, and the other former Swedish trading posts to the other side of the Atlantic.
1700 – The slave trade develops to being a motor in the European economy and a majority of the countries participate in various ways in the lucrative trade. The Swedish houses of commerce role have still to be delineated allthough some involvement is certain. Among others, the Swedish consul in the USA, Richard Söderström, carried out two slave expeditions to Africa up until 1784.
1700 – More than 10.000 Swedish seamen participate until its abolition in the Dutch, British and French slave trade, some as captains or officers of the slave ships.
1784 – Sweden acquires the West Indian Island Saint Barthélemy from France. 281 Slaves are kept on the island. 1812 the number of slaves had increased to 2406. An intense period of settling colonists begins. The city Gustavia is founded.
1786 – The Swedish West Indian Copany (Svenska Västindiska Kompaniet) is founded with the crown prince as the main partner. The letter of priveleges states that the company has the right to carry on slave trade on the AFrican coast.
1787 – The West Indian Company prepares a slave trade expedition to Africa which is cancelled due to war with Russia. Afterwars, the slave trade with Saint Barthélemy as junction is managed by private businessmen, which include employees in the company.
1787 – Governor Rosenstein institutes apartheid legislation on the island which divides the population into whites, free coloureds and negroes, with draconanian punishment for the “negroes”.
1790 – Customs tariff is introduced in Saint Barthélemy which regulates free import of African slaves. In 1804 a custom tariff for importing “negroes”is introduces. The tariff for the export of “new negroes”from Africa with Swedish ships is half.
1803 – Denmark abolishes slave trade.
1806 – The last news items about arriving slave ships from Africa are published in “The Report of Saint Bartholomew”- but slave ships continues to depart and arrive with Swedish custom charged until 1814. Swedish slave ships arrive to other places, in particular Havana.
1807 – Great Britain abolishes Slave trade.
1813 – The condemnation of slave trade is included in Swedish treaty with Great Britain but without effect.
1815 – The Congress of Vienna accepts a declaration on the abolishment of slave trade. Slave trade in various forms continues on Saint Barthélemy as clandestine operations into the 1830s and until the early 1820s with knowledge from the Governor and benefits for the economy of the island. Reoccuring protests and diplomatic conflicts with Great Britain and the USA concerning the continuing Swedish slave trade and collaboration with the illegal slave trade. The continued Swedish involvement in the slave trade is also harshly criticized in the British parliament.
1824 – Treaty between Sweden and Great Britain measures for the abolishment of slave trade. Legislation against slave trade.
1830 – The parliament adopts a penal code against “negro trade”. The penalty for violating the law is death. Exception is legislated for trade with slaves for private necessites in countries where slavery is legal, meaning Saint Barthélemy.
1844-1845 – Swedish parliament discusses and decides to abolisch slavery in Saint Barthélemy. A Slave Evaluation Commission is instituted to ensure the owners indemnity.
1847 – Sweden officially abolishes slavery. The last slaves on Saint Barthélemy are bought free.
1878 – Sweden sells Saint Barthélemy to France.
1600 – 1800 – During the entire slave epoch iron ore is Sweden’s main export product and Great Britain the main importer. Specially designed iron bars, so called voyage iron, play a central role as currency in the slave trade transactions on the African coast. This iron is mainly imported from Sweden and immediately re-exported to the African slave trade. The national Board of Mines (Bergskollegium) was well aware of the special ordered iron products significance in the realization of the slave trade. The high quality Swedish iron ore is central in all stages of the slave trade and slavery: from the rifles and shackles used for the capturing and transportation of slaves to the voyage iron used as payment for slaves and pickaxes used for working on the plantations. In fact Sweden was deeply integrated in the Atlantic slave trade economy. Probably Sweden has never been aas closely dependent on African developments as during the Transatlantic Slave Trade era.”
Compiled by Jan Lönn, Committee in Remembrance of Swedish Transatlantic Slave Trade.

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