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IX. Asians Compared: Some Observations regarding Indian and Indonesian Indentured Labourers in Surinam, 1873-1939

  • P. C. Emmer (a1)


The drive towards the abolition of the slave trade at the beginning of the 19th century was not effective until the 1850s. It was perhaps the only migratory intercontinental movement in history which came to a complete stop because of political pressures in spite of the fact that neither the supply nor the demand for African slaves had disappeared.

Because of the continuing demand for bonded labour in some of the plantation areas in the New World (notably the Guiana's, Trinidad, Cuba and Brazil) and because of a new demand for bonded labour in the developing sugar and mining industries in Mauritius, Réunion, Queensland (Australia), Natal (South Africa), the Fiji-islands and Hawaii an international search for ‘newslaves’ started.



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1 Engerman, Stanley L., ‘Contract Labour, Sugar, and Technology in the Nineteenth Century’, Journal of Economic History 43 (1938) 635639.

2 Marks, Shula and Richardson, Peter eds., International Labour Migration: Historical Perspectives (London 1984); andSaunders, Kay ed., Indentured Labour in the British Empire, 1834-1920 (London/Canberra 1984).

3 Green, William A., British Slave Emancipation (Oxford 1976) 290293.

4 Tinker, Hugh, A New System of Slavery (Oxford 1974); Meager, Arnold Joseph, ‘The Introduction of Chinese Laborers to Latin America: the “coolie trade” 1847-1874’ (unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Davis 1975); andRichardson, Peter, ‘Coolies, Peasants and Proletarians: the Origins of Chinese Indentured Labour in South Africa, 1904-1907’ in: Marks, and Richardson, eds., International Labour Migration, 167185.

5 Tinker, , New System ofSlavery, chapter 9, 334383.

6 lsmael, Joseph, De immigratie van Indonesian in Suriname (Leiden 1949) 95.

7 Chinese: Meager, , ‘Introduction of Chinese Laborers’, 55.Indians: Omvedt, Gail, ‘Migration in Colonial India. The Articulation of Feudalism and Capitalism by the Colonial State’, Journal of Peasant Studies 7 (1980) 188. Javanese: Peter Boomgaard, ’Multiplying Masses: Nineteenth Century Population Growth in India and Indonesia’ (in this volume) table 2.

8 Emmer, Pieter, ‘The Immigration of Asian Indentured Labourers into Surinam (Dutch Guiana), 1853-1939’ in: Legoreta, Omar Martinez ed., Asia en America Latina (UNESCO: forthcoming) tables 11 and XVI.

9 Meager, , ‘Introduction of Chinese Laborers’, 5056.

10 Richardson, , ‘Coolies, Peasants and Proletarians’, 169185.

11 Tinker, New System of Slavery, chapter 3.

12 lsmael, , Immigratie van Indonesi'ers in Suriname, 3951 (Javanese); andEmmer, Pieter, ‘The Immigration of British Indians into Surinam (Dutch Guiana), 1873-1916’ in: Marks, and Richardson, eds., International Labour Migration, 90111.

13 Burger, J. W., ‘Vergelijkend overzicht van de immigratie en blijvende vestiging van Javanen en Britsch-Indiers in Suriname’, De Economist 77, 432433; A. M. de Waal Malefijt, ‘Het sociaal-economisch vermogen van de Javane n in Suriname’ and Speckmann, J. D., ‘De positie van de Hindostaanse bevolkingsgroep in de sociaal-economische struktuur van Suriname, Tijdschrift van het Koninklijk Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap, He reeks, 80 459473.

14 Data from Koloniale Verslagen, 1890-1921. My thanks to A.J. Kuijpers, who calculated the percentages. Data on India from Davis, K., The Population of India and Pakistan (Princeton 1951) 70. Some of this material is drawn from:Emmer, P. C., ‘The Great Escape: the Migration of Female Indentured Servants from British India to Surinam, 1873-1916’ in: Richardson, D. ed., Abolition and its Aftermath; the Historical Context, 1790-1916 (London 1985) 225266.

15 India Office Records, J+P files/2/161 (précis).

16 India Office Records, Emigration Proceedings, vol. 3214 (1888) 1257-1291; and vol. 3445 (1889)197-205.

17 Emmer, P. C., ‘The Meek Hindu, the Recruitment of Indian Indentured Labour for Service Overseas, 1870-1916’ in: Emmer, P. C. ed., Colonialism and Migration; Indentured Labour Before and After Slavery (The Hague 1986) 199.

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IX. Asians Compared: Some Observations regarding Indian and Indonesian Indentured Labourers in Surinam, 1873-1939

  • P. C. Emmer (a1)


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