this summer. Today I would like to discuss an important aspect of the Arakaneseeconomy during the seventeenth century: the development of the slave trade.
The development of the slave trade from the early seventeenth century
In Bengal the relatively stable political situation which had been created by the AfghanKings after the downfall of the Gaur Sultans began to breakdown following the death of Sultan Sulaiman Karrani (1565-1572). In 1574 the Mughal Emperor Akbar defeatedDaud Khan, the last Afghan Sultan in Bengal, in a battle near Patna. The next year hisgenerals took over Gaur, the ancient capital of Bengal from the Afghan Sultan. But as theMughals soon found out, capturing the capital was not to mean that they ruled the land.For almost a whole century Bengal was the scene of an intense struggle between Mughalforces and local lords
. In these battles the Arakanese would prove to be toughestadversary the Mughals would encounter. As a result of the ensuing Mughal-Arakanesewars in eastern Bengal a trade in Bengal slaves developed during the seventeenth century.Sanjay Subrahmanyam in his insightful article, 'Slaves and Tyrants in Mrauk-
some aspects of Dutch trade with Arakan during the seventeenth century.
Subrahmanyam suggested that the slave trade in Arakan should be thought of as aseventeenth century phenomenon. In this paper I will further explore this idea. It is mycontention that the demand for slaves from the Dutch East India Company, or VOC,fundamentally changed the nature of this trade.In 1621 with a show of brutal force the Dutch governor-general Jan-Pietersz. Coenestablished VOC control over the Banda archipelago. Coen forcibly removed or killedmost of the indigenous population of the Banda islands, estimated at 15,000 people. Thishorrifying act left the VOC in the possession of the world's only source of nutmeg andmace, but without workers to tend the nutmeg gardens. Coen introduced on Banda aplantation system with so-called
, or keepers of the nutmeg gardens. The VOCprovided the
with slaves to do the work for them. The slaves needed for theSpice Islands such as Banda were until 1624 bought or captured in a fairly haphazardway. From 1623 onwards the VOC would find a structural supply of slaves on the