Researchers at Leiden University have published a major report into the involvement of the Dutch central bank and its directors in slavery, highlighting the bank’s links to slave traders and their financial transactions.
The bank commissioned the research in an effort to find a ‘more objective understanding of DNB’s links to slavery’ which the board said had been triggered by the growing historical awareness of the subject and the ongoing fight against racism in society.
The research showed that the bank was involved in slavery in three ways. Part of its start-up capital came from business owners with direct interests in plantation slavery in the Atlantic region, for example in Suriname. Of the 16 initial major capital providers, 11 have now been linked to slavery.
As an institution, the bank was indirectly involved in Dutch colonial slavery and slavery in non-Dutch areas, such as British Guiana, by supporting the Ministry of Colonies in its day-to-day payment transfers. It also provided services to trading houses involved in slavery.
In addition, several prominent DNB officials were personally involved in colonial slavery with direct links with slavery-related businesses and the management of plantations. Only one or two were involved in organisations working to abolish slavery, the researchers found.
‘The facts that emerged from the study and the deeply racist beliefs that underlie them affect us deeply,’ bank president Klaas Knot said. ‘While we cannot undo the suffering that has been caused, we can, as DNB, try to contribute to healing by making this history visible, and by acknowledging the facts and the suffering they have caused.’
The bank is also planning to talk to both staff and representatives of civil society organisations, and is setting up an external focus group headed by Freek Ossel, who currently chairs the National Transatlantic Museum of Slavery.
‘We wish to find an appropriate manner to make a gesture of lasting value to those affected and Dutch society at large,’ Knot said. ‘Our historical links to slavery are a constant reminder that we must never cease to contribute to a society in which every person counts and in which no one is excluded.’
More details will be published later in the year.
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