Danish slave trade

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The Danish slave trade occurred separately in two different periods: the trade in European slaves during the Viking Age, from the 8th to 10th century; and the Danish role in selling African slaves during the Atlantic slave trade, from the 1600s until a 1792 law to abolish the trade came into effect on 1 January 1803. Slavery continued in the Danish West Indies until July, 1848, when all unfree people in Danish lands were emancipated.

Danish slave trade during the Viking Age[edit]

During the Viking Age, thralls (Norse slaves) were an important part of the economy and one of the main reasons for the raids on England in which slaves were captured. This practice was largely abandoned once Denmark became Christian in the 10th century.[citation needed]

Danish transatlantic slave trade[edit]

Trading African slaves was part of the transatlantic slave trade by Denmark-Norway around 1671, when the Danish West India Company was chartered until 1 January 1803 when the 1792 law to abolish the slave trade came into effect.[1] However, an illegal trade in enslaved Africans continued.

Slavery in the Danish West Indies continued until 3 July 1848 when slaves gathered at Frederiksted and demanded their freedom. Fearing a revolt Danish Governor Peter von Scholten issued a proclamation that "all unfree in the Danish West Indies are from today emancipated."[2][3]

As of 1778, it was estimated annually Dano-Norwegians shipped approximately 3,000 African slaves to the Danish West Indies.[4] During the 1720s, many of these African slaves were sourced from the Akan-region Akwamu, Ga-Adangbe in present-day Ghana, with a large number taken to the island of St Jan (now Saint John in the U.S. Virgin Islands), rebelling in 1733 and attempting to found an Akwamu-led nation, including one of its leaders Breffu.[5] The country's ships transported approximately 100,000 African slaves, about 2% of the total number in the early 19th century.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gøbel, Erik (2011). "Danish Shipping Along the Triangular Route, 1671–1802: Voyages and conditions on board". Scandinavian Journal of History. 36 (2): 135–155. doi:10.1080/03468755.2011.564065. S2CID 143440637.
  2. ^ "The Abolition of Slavery - National Museum of Denmark". National Museum of Denmark. Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  3. ^ Bastian, Jeannette Allis (2003). Owning Memory: How a Caribbean Community Lost Its Archives and Found Its History. Libraries Unlimited. ISBN 9780313320088.
  4. ^ Kitchin, Thomas (1778). The Present State of the West-Indies: Containing an Accurate Description of What Parts Are Possessed by the Several Powers in Europe. London: R. Baldwin. p. 21.
  5. ^ Holly Kathryn Norton (2013). Estate by Estate: The Landscape of the 1733 St. Jan Slave Rebellion (PhD). Syracuse University. ProQuest 1369397993.

Further reading[edit]

  • Andersen, Astrid Nonbo. ""We Have Reconquered the Islands": Figurations in Public Memories of Slavery and Colonialism in Denmark 1948-2012." International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 26, no. 1 (2013): 57-76. Accessed May 24, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42636435.
  • Jensen, Niklas Thode; Simonsen, Gunvor. "Introduction: The historiography of slavery in the Danish-Norwegian West Indies, c. 1950-2016." Scandinavian Journal of History Sep-Dec2016, Vol. 41 Issue 4/5, p475-494.