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Slavery, Abolition and Archipelagic Connections in the Swedish Caribbean

Project description

An unknown aspect of slavery: the Swedish Caribbean colonialism

The institution of slavery has been part of human history since antiquity and was only abolished in the 19th century. A large scholarly literature has examined slavery and the slave trade. However, the subject has predominantly been investigated in the context of large colonial powers. The EU-funded SAINTBARTH project will investigate a previously unstudied facet of slavery and the slave trade: the centennial Swedish presence in the Caribbean. The island of Saint Barthélemy was Swedish from 1785 to 1787 and the project investigates for the first time Swedish Caribbean history based on information from the previously inaccessible Swedish government colonial archive held in France. The project will provide significant insight into Swedish colonialism and the history of slavery in the Caribbean archipelago.


Surveys and datasets of the trans-Atlantic slave trade do not include Swedish slave trade and colonial history. Yet, when Sweden acquired the Antillean island Saint Barthélemy in 1784 it became a slaving nation that traded and smuggled captive Africans and punished the enslaved population using draconic slave laws until the abolition of Swedish slavery in 1847. The project is the first investigation of new sources and it situates Swedish colonialism in the Caribbean archipelago. By shifting the emphasis of the previous historiography from the European colonizers to building knowledge on the enslaved and free Afro-Caribbean majority population the project shows how the Swedish Caribbean society only can be understood in a larger setting where single-nation historical narratives have little explanatory power. Five subprojects creates new knowledge that will build a critical mass of data on hitherto unstudied facets of Swedish Caribbean history: slave law and justice, slave trade, abolition of slavery, colonial demography, and colonial governance. The project uses the Swedish governmental colonial archive held in France that for the first time has been made accessible in the PI’s preceding project. By scholarly publications and the creation of datasets covering legislation, biographies of the majority Black population, slave trade data etc. – and publishing them online in both project-owned databases and by contributing to major international datasets – it develops new methods within digital Caribbean and colonial history. The Caribbean intergovernmental organization CARICOM has included Sweden in its claims for reparations for “genocide, slavery, slave trading, and racial apartheid” and the project builds a firm basis to evaluate Swedish participation in Caribbean slavery and colonialism.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 992 925,00
Von kraemers alle 4
751 05 Uppsala

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Östra Sverige Östra Mellansverige Uppsala län
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00