About CARICOM Compilation Archive (CCA)

You can read on this page how to use CARICOM Compilation Archive (CCA), how this archive has come about, how much Switzerland was been involved in slavery and colonialism, and what literature and sources have been used for the archive. At the very end of this page you will find the Table of Content.

You can go to the archive straight away: CARICOM Compilation Archive (CCA)

How to Use the Achive

CARICOM Compilation Archive (CCA) is just one single web-page in order to facilitate research and continuing additions. You can find decimal chapters (e.g. «1.3 Barbados» or «3.1.1 Alabama»), names of individuals (e.g. «Bourcard» or «Guisan»), place-names (e.g. «Berne» or «Berbice»), plantation-names (e.g. «Oberberg» or «De Vriendschap»), names of slave-ships («Pays de Vaud» or «Réparateur»), or products (e.g. «sugar» or «indigo») by a text research: On Apple computers use [cmd] + [f], on Windows computers [STRG] + [f] or [ctrl] + [f].

How CCA Has Come About

In the course of my involvement with the history of the Black Atlantic, I have had four memorable opportunities to meet historians, activists, politicians and diplomats committed to researching and addressing the «appalling tragedies in the history of humanity» that Transatlantic slavery and the slave trade have been defined by the 2001 «World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance» in Durban.

In November 2003, I was invited by the Haitian foreign minister Joseph Philippe Antonio to participate in the «Inter-Ministerial Conference on Restitution and Development» in Port-au-Prince. The participants of the conference were received by President Jean Bertrand Aristide for an exchange of ideas on reparation and restitution.

In January 2005, I was invited to Dakar (Senegal) for a colloquium on «Transatlantic Echoes» at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, as well as to Gorée and Jilor in the context of the «Bouki Blues Festival».

In March 2008, I was again invited to Dakar (Senegal), this time to present and discuss the French edition of my 2005 book Reise in Schwarz-Weiss. Schweizer Ortstermine in Sachen Sklaverei (Travels in Black and White. Swiss Dates with Slavery) before the PhD students of slavery at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop and at the library ClairAfrique before a meeting organized by the «West African Research Centre» (WARC).

In November 2013, I was invited to take part as a speaker in the «Pluridisciplinary Colloquium on the Culture of the Maroons in the Guianas and the Caribbean Basin from the 17th to the 20th Century» in Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni (French Guiana). The participants were able to travel the Maroni River upstream by boat as far as Apatou, in order to attend a meeting with the Gran Man of the local community, whose members were descendants of the bushinenge or Boni people, who rose in rebellion in the Dutch colony of Suriname, established maroon settlements and fled across the river to French Guiana.

The people I met in Port-au-Prince, Dakar, Gorée, Jilor, Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni, and Apatou (and in Bordeaux, Nantes, La Rochelle, and Paris for that matter) have further convinced me that Transatlantic slavery is an unfinished business. They have inspired and motivated me to continue trying to be of help when it comes to demanding justice and reparation from the colonial powers of the 16th-19th centuries. So when I read about the «CARICOM Reparations Initiative» in 2013, I immediately decided that Switzerland should be put on the list of colonial powers addressed for reparations. It took me a long time to establish contact with the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC), but when it happened via CRC Vice-Chair Professor Verene Shepherd, I realised that I had to convince the commission with arguments and material. So I started to compile all the Swiss involvements in slavery, the slave trade, colonialism and racism relevant to CARICOM member states and the Caribbean economic space which I had already researched for my 2005 book «Reise in Schwarz-Weiss. Schweizer Ortstermine in Sachen Sklaverei» (Travels in Black-and-White. Swiss Local Appointments in Matters of Slavery). I called it «CARICOM Compilation», started adding new material to it and apparently was able to convince the CRC: In June 2019, they announced that they would recommend the CARICOM heads of state to add Switzerland to the list. When I had the opportunity to take part in the symposium on  «Western Banking, Colonialism and Reparations» in October 2019, the «CARICOM Compilation» had already grown into a considerable body of relevant information. In my work, I was again and again able to draw on Cooperaxion’s «Datenbank der im Sklavenhandel involvierten Schweizer», which I hereby strongly recommend.

My CCA continued to grow even more, when I had the wonderful opportunity to join forces with Dr. Klaus Stuckert, researcher and lecturer on Caribbean and Australian literature, who provided me with a stream of new information, especially on Suriname and Berbice. Together we found that the archive had to be expanded beyond the Caribbean, towards British North America and the USA, where Swiss involvement in slavery had been massive and largely overlooked in Swiss historiography. Then I added Brazil. And should fate provide me with good health, time and energy, I intend to expand the project into southern Africa and the East Indies, where there are a lot of Swiss slavery stories to be found.

From being a compilation of Swiss involvements in the CARICOM space, the project has turned slightly ambitious: It aims at becoming, under the new name of CARICOM Compilation Archive (CCA), a comprehensive documentation of Swiss participation in slavery, the slave trade, anti-Black racism and colonialism. May it be a quarry to be mined and a source of inspiration, and may it be of use to researchers, curious readers and activists alike, in Switzerland, Europe and overseas!

Swiss Involvement in Slavery And Colonialism

Since the end of the 1990s, a number of Swiss historians have established beyond doubt that Switzerland as a society and a cultural, economic, and ideological space has been involved in all the activities relevant to the «Black Atlantic», i.e. to slavery, the slave trade and the elaboration of anti-black racism. Between the 16th and the 19th centuries, Swiss trading companies, banks, city states, family enterprises, mercenary contractors, soldiers, and private individuals participated in and profited from the commercial, military, administrative, financial, scientific, ideological, and publishing activities necessary for the creation and the maintenance of the Transatlantic slavery economy. In a narrower sense, this includes: participation in triangular trade expeditions; insurance businesses; investments in colonial projects and societies; trade and speculation with slavery-produced goods; trade with goods for the triangular trade; slave trade in its proper sense; ownership, administratorship or directorship of plantations with slaves; overseeing plantation slaves; sexual abuse, particularly of female slaves; participation in a «legal» system which meted out punishment to slaves; participation in military undertakings to establish and/or secure colonies relevant to slavery; administration of colonial territories; participation in military operations to preserve or secure slavery; «scientific» or journalistic activities to justify slavery and the colonial system based on slavery; journalistic and ideological activities to establish, elaborate, maintain and/or spread anti-black racism; scientific contributions to navigation; production and export of timepieces essential for celestial navigation at sea by colonial powers.

Whereas these historical facts are unquestioned by academic circles and the reading public, there is an ongoing and rather heated debate between historians and the Swiss authorities (including the government) as to how to interpret them. In their answers to a number of private member’s bills, the Federal Council (the multi-party coalition cabinet or «Bundesrat») have always argued that Switzerland as a nation state has never been involved in slavery nor ever been a colonial power. Critical historians working within a postcolonial research context (myself included) however, emphasize firstly that it is not a big achievement for Switzerland as a nation state player not to be involved in colonial policies, since Switzerland has only existed as such since 1848. They point out secondly that the slavery-based economy of the Black Atlantic cannot be broken up into so many nation states, but has to be considered as a whole, i.e. «Switzerland» has to be defined as a society and a cultural, economic, and ideological space, and predecessor statal entities (like city states and cantons of the «Old Confederacy») have to be taken into account, too. Therefore, CARICOM Compilation Archive is based on the assumption that «Swiss» is understood as referring to individuals from within – or having lived within – modern Switzerland’s borders, to Swiss citizens, to legal entities with headquarters on the territory of modern Switzerland, and to statal entities that can be considered predecessors of the federal state of 1848.

I am aware that it is problematic and maybe nearly impossible or even cynical to convert the degree of a country’s participation in a crime against humanity so gigantic that the mind boggles into – percentages. But I want to do it all the same. And fortunately, others have tried before me. As early as 1992, Martin Bossenbroek found that between 1814 and 1909, Swiss mercenary soldiers accounted for a surprising 4% of the total colonial troops of the Dutch (whose empire stretched from the Caribbean via the Cape Colony to the East Indies) and were even ahead of the French. In La Suisse et l’esclavage des Noirs (Lausanne 2005), historian Bouda Etemad writes on p. 47 : «A broader balance, taking into account the direct and indirect Swiss involvement in the slave trade, would go beyond 172,000 deported slaves, i.e. 1.5% of the 11-12 million human being captured in Africa in the context of the Transatlantic trade.» I myself, in my book Reise in Schwarz-Weiss, have put it like this on p. 287f.: «Starting from the basic assumption of an average life expectancy of 10 years for the enslaved labour force, an average plantation size of 100 enslaved workers, and of a period of ownership of 30 years, one would get about half a million enslaved labour years for the approximately 50 Swiss plantations in South America, the Caribbean, in North America and South Africa. To this, one would have to add the slaves that worked in Swiss households and factories. I assume that in relation to the total volume of enslaved labour years in the slavery economy of the New World, this would amount to a percentage rate in the lower one-digit range. The same percentage would probably be true for military operations.

I made these estimations in 2005. Considering that since then, more Swiss participation (investment in triangular expeditions in an approximate total of 100 cases, plantation ownership) has been established, considering the important role of the Swiss indiennes production (e.g. 80% of all the indiennes in Nantes were produced by Swiss companies), considering the significant Swiss share of the trade with colonial goods (i.e. Swiss cotton imports in part of the 18th century were second only to Britain in absolute figures), considering the fundamental importance of military operations to maintain slavery, and – last but not least – in view of the Swiss contributions to the «ideological logistics» of anti-black racism, I would dare the claim that Swiss participation in Transatlantic slavery was around 2%. Professor Harald Fischer-Tiné, Chair of «History of the Modern World» at the Swiss Federal Institute of Science and Technology (ETH) in Zurich, even put the Swiss share in the total slave-trade between 1772 and 1830 at 2.4 %.

Is that much? It is very little compared to what has been estimated for Britain (40%), Portugal (30%), or France (20%). But it is infinitely more than the 0% that most Swiss (including most historians, including myself) would have guessed as late as the 1990s. And if one puts it in relation to respective population sizes, one is in for a surprise. Around 1800, Switzerland had a population of about 1.7 million, and France about 29 million. From which follows that the country we have all come to think of as tiny, land-locked, neutral, and Alpine had a per capita involvement in Transatlantic slavery which was almost twice as big as that of the great European colonial power of France.

For the Swiss line of succession of statal entities and the respective political maps see here.

Select Bibliography

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Archives nationalesSecours aux colons de Saint-Domingue. Indemnisation des colons spoliés,www.siv.archives-nationales.culture.gouv.fr/siv/rechercheconsultation/consultation/ir/pdfIR.action?irId=FRAN_IR_000199 (accessed 2018/11/06)
Bergeron, Louis: «›Pourtalès et Cie‹ (1753–1801): Apogée et déclin d’un capitalisme», in: Annales. Economies, Sociétés, Civilisations, No. 2, März–April 1970
«Ber. des Gf. Karl von Z. über seine handelspolit. Studienreise durch die Schweiz 1764», in BZGA 35, 1936, 151-354, bearb. von O.E. Deutsch
Bernoulli, Fernando: Die helvetischen Halbbrigaden im Dienste Frankreichs 1798–1805, Frauenfeld 1934
Bodmer, Walter: «Schweizer Tropenkaufleute und Plantagenbesitzer in Niederländisch-Westindien im 18. und zu Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts», in: Acta Tropica, vol. 3, Basel 1946
Bossenbroek, Martin: Volk voor Indië. De werving van Europese militairen voor de Nederlandse koloniale dienst, 1814–1909, Amsterdam 1992, p. 227
Büchi, H.: «Solothurnische Finanzzustände im ausgehenden Ancien Régime (ca. 1750–1798)», in: Basler Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Altertumskunde, 15, 1916
Campiche, R.: «Un colon vaudois à Saint-Domingue», in: Revue historique vaudoise, 56, 1948
CooperaxionDatenbank Sklavenhandelhttps://cooperaxion.ch (accessed 2018/11/06)
David, Thomas, Bouda Etemad, Janick Marina Schaufelbuehl: La Suisse et l’esclavage des noirs, Lausanne 2005
David, Thomas: Seul au milieu de 128 nègres“: un planteur vaudois en Guyane hollandaise au temps de l’esclavage : lettres à ses parents, 1823-1835, Lausanne 2008
Debrunner, Hans Werner: Schweizer im kolonialen Afrika, Basel 1991
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De Saussure, Henri: Voyage aux Antilles et au Mexique, 1854–1856, hrsg. v. Louis de Roguin und Claude Weber, Genève 1993
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Fässler, Hans: Reise in Schwarz-Weiss. Schweizer Ortstermine in Sachen Sklaverei, Zürich 2005, in French as: Une Suisse esclavagiste. Voyage dans un pays au-dessus de tout soupçon, Paris 2007 (with foreword by Doudou Diène and backcover text by Jean Ziegler)
Fischer-Tiné, Harald, Bernhard C. Schär: Die NZZ im Herzen der Unschuld, in: WOZ, 19. Mai 2016
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Table of Content

1.1 Antigua and Barbuda
1.2 Bahamas
1.3 Barbados
1.4 Dominica
1.5 Grenada
1.6 Guyana (colonies «Demerara», «Essequibo», and «Berbice»)
1.7 Haiti (colony «Saint-Domingue»)

1.7.1 Economic 
1.7.2 Military 
1.7.3 Ideological

1.8 Jamaica 
1.9 Montserrat 
1.10 St. Vincent & The Grenadines 
1.11 Suriname 
1.12 Trinidad and Tobago 

2.1 Cuba 
2.2 Netherlands Antilles (colonies «Aruba», «Bonaire», «Curaçao», «St. Eustacius») 
2.3 French West Indies (colonies «Guiana», «Guadeloupe», «Martinique») 
2.4 Danish West Indies (colonies «St. John», «St. Croix», and «St. Thomas»)  
2.5 Venezuela 
2.6 Florida 

3 BEYOND THE CARIBBEAN (under construction) 
3.1. North America (the Thirteen Colonies and the United States)

3.1.1 Alabama 
3.1.2 Arkansas 
3.1.3 California 
3.1.4 Carolinas 
3.1.5 Florida 
3.1.6 Georgia 
3.1.7 Kentucky 
3.1.8 Louisiana 
3.1.9 Mississippi 
3.1.10 Tennesse 
3.1.11 Texas 
3.1.12 Virginia

3.2 Brazil (Colonial Brazil, United Kingdom with Portugal, independent empire)
3.3 Southern Africa
3.4 East Indies

4.1 Anti-Black Racism and Ideologies Relevant to Caribbean Economic Space 
4.2 Marine Navigation 
4.3 African and European Logistics