A leading bank in The Netherlands, ABN AMRO is gripped with the guilt of its predecessor companies financing and insuring the slave trade.
The third-largest Dutch bank ABN AMRO has apologised for its predecessor companies' role in the slave trade.
The bank had commissioned an investigation into the “untold suffering” its predecessor companies have caused because of its links to the Trans Atlantic slave trade.
The investigation carried out by academics from the International Institute of Social History (IISH) has revealed that two Dutch bank’s predecessors were actively involved either in the day-to-day business of plantations and underwriting the trade in products produced by slaves.
ABN AMRO’s predecessor Hope & Co. “played a pivotal role in the international slave economy of the 18th century,” the report said.
“Not only were slavery-related operations a source of much of Hope & Co.’s profits, the firm was also actively involved in the day-to-day business of plantations.”
The plantations were in the Caribbean on Dutch colonies and other islands.
R. Mees & Zoonen, another of ABN AMRO’s predecessors, brokered insurance for slave ships and shipments of goods harvested by enslaved persons.
ABN AMRO CEO Robert Swaak said the bank has a proud history, but “we must also recognize that it has a darker side as well.”
The bank is the latest institution to apologize for historic ties to slavery, following the Bank of England in 2020 and the municipality of Amsterdam last year amid a global Black Lives Matter reckoning over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Lead researcher Pepijn Brandon of the International Institute of Social History that documented the history said it revealed “slavery-related operations formed a core part” off the business of Hope & Co., which was the largest financial and commercial company in the Netherlands at the end of the 18th century.
“Decisions made in offices in Amsterdam and Rotterdam directly impacted the lives of thousands of enslaved persons,” Brandon added.
ABN AMRO also said it had discussed the findings with representatives of the descendants of enslaved people, who said they want to see “concrete measures to help improve the structural social disadvantages facing descendants of enslaved persons.”
One of the predecessor companies of ABN AMRO was Hope & Co. Founded in 1762, it was active in the trade in Caribbean plantation products by working with subcontractors of the Asiento de Negros, the Spanish monopoly contract in the slave trade.
It has profitted from the expansion of Caribbean slavery in the second half of the eighteenth century, keeping close political connection with this trade.
Dutch slavery history
The Netherlands had colonised many regions from the Americas and Asia to Africa.
It started to colonise the African continent from the 17th century onwards, establishing many colonies in Ivory Coast, Ghana, South Africa, Angola, Namibia and Senegal and exploiting natural and human resources of these countries.
One of the most infamous Dutch colonial traces in Africa was the massacres against the Khoikhoi people.
In 1659, 1673 and 1674-1677, the Dutch carried out massive massacres to enslave the Khoikhoi in Cape Town, killing thousands of Africans, confiscating their homes and lands, and abducting them into slavery.
According to historians, in 1795 two-thirds of Cape Town's population consisted of slaves.
The Dutch also controlled the slave trade in Asia. Slaves from Madagascar, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka were worked. In some periods, it was seen that about 200 slaves fell on a Dutchman in the colonies.
It is estimated that the Dutch enslaved approximately 1 million 135 thousand people in Asia.