Slavery has existed since time immemorial. Best known to us is the slave trade that began round 1500 and ended by the middle of the 19th century: it served as a basis for the European colonization of many countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
The Royal Tropical Institute's collection on the topic of slavery centers on Surinam and, to a lesser degree, the rest of the Caribbean and Brazil. Roughly speaking, it may be categorized into five themes: Slavenhandel (Slave trade), Leven en werk op de plantages (Life and work on the plantations), Religie (Religion), Afschaffing van de slavernij (Abolition of slavery) and Erfenis van slavernij (Slavery's legacy).
These categories come to light in a number of objects and documents, but the main component of the collection on slavery consists of visual material. Photographs, prints, drawings and paintings convey a picture from the perspective of the slaves and the plantation owners, outsiders and victims. Famous in this respect are the engravings that illustrate the book Reize naar Surinamen, en door de binnenste gedeelten van Guiana (Journey to Surinam and through the inner parts of Guyana) by Captain J.G. Stedman (1799-1800).