Resisting Enslavement

A Global Historical Approach to Slavery in the Dutch Atlantic and Asian Empire (1620-1815)

This project questions how resistance by enslaved impacted slavery and modes of enslavement in societies connected to the global Dutch colonial empire. By studying slave resistance from a global micro-historical perspective, the Resisting Enslavement project questions how different modes of enslavement impacted i) patterns of slave trade, ii) the labelling and treatment of enslaved, iii) and the social and resistance strategies of enslaved in the early modern Dutch Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Indonesian archipelago worlds.

Resisting Enslavement uses the rich source material preserved in the Dutch colonial courts of law to explore slave resistances and the impact of enslavement. These records contain detailed information on (previously often ignored) processes and actors of colonial, local and domestic authority and resistance throughout and beyond boundaries of the Dutch colonial empire. An example of such source can be found in Testimonies of Enslavement that transcribed and translated court records dealing with slavery in early modern Dutch Kerala. The project builds upon earlier efforts to create indexes for the Dutch colonial court records, most notably in the Resilient Diversity project.

The Resisting Enslavement project will employ an inductive (in-depth, source-based) global (micro)historical approach that analyzes resistance and slavery through colonial court records from the Atlantic and Asian sides of the Dutch empire in one single comparative framework.

The project aims to develop an interactive outreach strategy to that foregrounds the ‘voices’ and multi-perspectivity of court record narratives.


Resisting Enslavement is financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) in the Vidi NWO Talent Programme. The project started 1 July 2023 and will continue until 31 June 2028.

Project team
Matthias van Rossum
Filipa Ribeiro da Silva
Britt van Duijvenvoorde
Alyssa Renfurm