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French School (circa 1820)
Un esclave avec son famille est présenté devant Mécmet-aly

Titled lower center
Oil on canvas, H. 43 x W. 55.5 cm

Mécmet-aly or Muhammad Ali Pasha (1769- 1849), was the Ottoman Governor of Egypt and Sudan from 1805 till 1848. He was sent by the Ottoman sultan with his Albanian mercenaries to recover control over Egypt after Napoleon and the French had left. His descendants ruled Egypt until 1952. 


Many thousand Dutch and other West- European seamen, occasionally with their families, were enslaved in the 17th and 18th century, mainly in North-Africa but also in Spanish and Portuguese colonies, amongst them Maarten Harpertz. Tromp and Piet Hein. Algiers was the largest slave-making pirate harbour, followed by Salé in Morocco. The slavers usually were European, mainly English and French, pirate captains working for North-African rulers or selling their captives wherever they could.

Although the European slaves had to work for their owners, and could be sold on, it was mainly the ransom money paid for European slaves that was the reason for this slavery. In the Netherlands collections were organized and taxes levied to purchase freedom for these Christenslaven, Christian slaves. Fellow white Christian Europeans had to be bought free, and they usually were.

In the 17th century the Dutch followed the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese slave-practice allowing slavery in their colonies, introduced (under protest from several Dutch scholars and statesmen) by Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen when he needed workers for the sugar mills in the recently acquired territories of Dutch Brazil. In Lisbon, Cadiz and Livorno there were markets for enslaved African people. That was a bridge too far for Amsterdam, but those markets in their own colonies were no problem.
Enslaved Africans on Dutch soil were officially free and worked as servants, pages or just as ‘exotic’ accesories, but in reality, they had nowhere else to go and weren’t free at all.