G – Patterns of integration and transregional dynamics in and across empires

The Dutch early modern empire as a globalized institution of localized social control

Event Details

  • Date

    Friday, 26 June - 9:00 – 11:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    G – Patterns of integration and transregional dynamics in and across empires
Convenor
  • Sophie Rose (Leiden University)
  • Alexander Geelen (International Institute of Social History)
Chair
  • Kaarle Wirta (Tampere University)
Commentator
  • Johanna Skurnik (University of Turku)
Panelists
  • Alexander Geelen (International Institute of Social History)
  • Sophie Rose (Leiden University)
  • Rafaël Thiébaut (International Institute of Social History)
  • Elisabeth Heijmans (Leiden University)

Papers

  • Alexander Geelen
    Mobility regulation and segregation in the Dutch colonial empire

    Mobility regulation and segregation in the Dutch colonial empire

    Segregation is a general phenomenon in pre-industrial societies, existing in many American, Asian and European cities. The highly diverse and mobile societies in the Dutch colonial settings were regulated through forceful residential segmentation and control of accessibility. Cities in particular were divided into exclusive quarters, with private and public spaces secured by walls, ports, canals and guards. Accessibility depended on individual status, gender, origin and religion, demonstrated by differences in clothing, colour and spoken language. Social and racial profiling was furthered through bureaucratic identification, such as written passes from domestic or state authorities and local adaptations of general segregating rules. Segregation was a tool to ensure the regulation of mobility. Mobility regulation was used to control the economic and social order. It was used, for example, to mobilize compulsory work (corvée) and impose tax obligations on local subjects as well as to impose a hierarchy and safeguard public order. This paper will specifically focus on mobility regulation and segregation in the Dutch colonial empire of the eighteenth century. With a focus on Batavia, Cochin, Elmina and Paramaribo. What were the specific economic and social rationales behind these regulations? How did they differ in various contexts? How did the categories people belonged to determine their mobility and which categories were employed? The focus of this paper will be to address these questions through legislative sources that will reveal the theory behind these regulations, and court cases which will reveal the practice.
  • Sophie Rose
    Embattled legitimacy: segregation, exclusion, and children of mixed descent in the eighteenth-century Dutch Empire

    Embattled legitimacy: segregation, exclusion, and children of mixed descent in the eighteenth-century Dutch Empire

    The Dutch early modern empire under the East and West Indian chartered trading companies (VOC and WIC) was characterized by sometimes contradictory objectives (i.e. political and commercial) as well as by demographic diversity: with indigenous groups living alongside regional migrants, European troops and settlers, traders from across the globe, and forced laborers brought in from afar, Dutch colonial outposts tended to be characterized by religious, ethnic, and even legal plurality. Dutch institutions involved in administering these societies were eager to keep these ethnic groups and those of differing status separated as a means of maintaining a strict hierarchy, but in practice inhabitants’ day-to-day life constantly undermined this segregation. One of the most prominent ways in which this occurred was through sexual relations between groups and the (illegitimate) children of mixed descent that were born of these unions. Through an examination of legislation and civil and criminal court cases, this paper examines, firstly, how the VIC and WIC authorities responded to the ‘problem’ these children posed: how did the companies police inter-group relationships, what legal and ethnic status were the children assigned, and what policies were set in place for their care and education? Secondly, the paper will show how those of mixed parentage and their families themselves engaged with the colonial court system to argue for privileges and inclusion based on status and parentage, and resolve conflicts regarding group belonging and communal and parental authority.
  • Rafaël Thiébaut
    Labor relations and diversity in the Dutch colonial empire (16th‐19th centuries)

    Labor relations and diversity in the Dutch colonial empire (16th‐19th centuries)

    Empires rarely comprised a single homogeneous group of workers. Most global empires were faced with workers of whom origin, culture, religion and status differed greatly and changed over time. The local dynamics made that the stratification of these workforces was different in every empire, and even in every city. The study of the highly diverse working populations of the different global empires provides a crucial test for assessing these conflicting perspectives on the historical dynamics of diversity and the development of patterns of differentiation. The Dutch empire, spanning from East to West, home to a large and heterogeneous workforce, offers a compelling case study on labor relations in this context. To control such a highly diverse working force, the strategy of the Dutch colonial institutions was a pattern of workplace differentiation. These strategies of control and negotiating power varied considerably from one colony to another, depending especially on status (free/unfree) and origin (subject/foreigner). While stratification and racialization were not evident in themselves, societal differences and inequalities were imported into working environments, thus creating dynamics of differentiation that became increasingly institutionalized over time. This paper will focus on labor relations between different groups of workers within the Dutch colonial Empire. It emphasizes how and why patterns of employment in relation to diversity changed during the Early Modern Period. Thanks to the use of primary archival material – especially court cases – and the access to important data, the following questions can be addressed: How did labor relations’ institutional framing determine governance of diversity within the Dutch empire? What were the dynamics of horizontal relations between works? What was the role of the lower supervising functions in the day-to-day management of such highly diverse workforces?
  • Elisabeth Heijmans
    Institutionalizing Discrimination? Practices of Criminal Courts in the Dutch Early Modern Empire

    Institutionalizing Discrimination? Practices of Criminal Courts in the Dutch Early Modern Empire

    In recent decades scholars have shown that colonial law and its practices were no coherent and rigid institutions imposed on society but were porous and changing (Herzog 2015; Benton 2005). While they inevitably remained tools of domination, they were contested and shaped by both administrators and administrated populations. Colonial courts as social processes have become objects of analysis in their own right. This paper seeks to explore the crafting, developments and uses of Dutch colonial criminal courts in the context of the governance of diversity. Since there was no separation of powers, legislative, administrative and judicial powers were centralized in the hands of the same individuals, a situation that could lead to discriminatory measures based on ethnicity, gender, class, status and religion. How were criminal courts used to govern diversity and create social categories? Through criminal court records of Batavia, Colombo, Cochin, Elmina, Surinam and Curacao, this paper analyzes the societal and institutional processes defining what and who was criminalized in Dutch early modern colonial societies. Since different pre-existing administrations and legal landscapes affected the crafting and the development of colonial courts, it will provide a global, comparative and connected approach of practices of criminal courts in different Dutch colonial contexts.

Abstract

The expansion and consolidation of early modern colonial empires brought about the question of governance with respect to populations that were culturally, religiously and ethnically diverse and often transient. In the governance of this dynamic diversity, economic interests converged with political and social concerns. Simultaneously, these empires form an early instance where institutional structures that transcended national or even continental divides grappled with highly localized social tapestries in an attempt to create a social hierarchy ordered by social boundaries, (ethnic) classifications, and racially and religiously informed modes of inclusion and exclusion. This session will take the Dutch early modern empire as a case study of this interaction between the global and the local in mechanisms of social control. The ‘Dutch Empire’ tends to be treated in historiography as not an entity as such but as two separate colonial projects largely controlled by two chartered trading companies – respectively the VOC in the Indian Ocean and the WIC in the Atlantic. However, not only did strong institutional, human, and financial entanglements connect the two, Dutch colonial authorities across the globe also confronted comparable challenges to colonial order on the ground and often responded in remarkably similar ways. This panel series seeks to investigate and compare the daily practices in the governance of diversity throughout the Dutch empire through different factors of social control, such as regulation of mobility, family formation, labour relations and legal practices. How did economic constraints shape practices of governance and categorization based on status, ethnicity, gender or religion? What other motivations, and which groups of actors, can be identified in accounting for differences in mechanisms of social control between and within empires?