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Lecture | Book talk | LIMS seminar

The Christian Slaves of Depok: A Colonial Tale Unravels

  • With author Dr. Nonja Peters (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands / John Curtin Institute of Public Policy, Curtin University, Western Australia)
  • Discussants: Prof. Dr. Leonard Blussé van Oud Alblas (Leiden University) and Prof. Dr. Fridus Steijlen (VU/KITLV).
Thursday 18 November 2021
Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars 2021-2022
Onlina access via https://smart.newrow.com/#/room/qjg-259
Conference room (2.60) (limited seats available, please email a.d.j.shield@hum.leidenuniv.nl)

LIMS talk about the book 'The Christian Slaves of Depok: A Colonial Tale Unravels' (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2021) with author Dr. Nonja Peters (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands / John Curtin Institute of Public Policy, Curtin University, Western Australia), and discussants Prof. Dr. Leonard Blussé van Oud Alblas (Leiden University) and Prof. Dr. Fridus Steijlen (VU / KITLV). 


This book recounts the little-known history of Cornelis Chastelein a high-ranking official of the Dutch East India Company and the 150-200 enslaved people he purchased from slave markets around South-East Asia to work his landed estates in the Batavian (Jakarta) hinterlands. It traces the making and unravelling of his dream to create a self-sustaining Christian community of freed slaves amid a Muslim stronghold. To this end, on his death on 28 June 1714, he freed most of his slaves and bequeathed those who had embraced Christianity, his 1244-hectare Depok estate in "collective ownership."

The book isolates behaviours and events that influenced these Depokkers' lives after Chastelein's death. They include exogamy, religion, war, revolution and diaspora, identity and belonging. The main characters are the missionaries bent on Depokkers' Dutchification, the Japanese invaders who demand obedience to their "Asia for the Asians" thinking, and the Indonesian Pemuda (freedom fighters), who insist Depokkers throw their weight behind the Independence movement.

Enslavement made Depokkers inbetweeners. In the Netherlands, they were considered Indonesian, and the Dutch to whom they thought they belonged painfully excluded them. Following the transfer of sovereignty, the Republic of Indonesia confiscated the rice fields of those that stayed and labelled them 'Belanda Depok' (black Hollanders). The history of the Depokkers is a tale of survival in the face of adversity that takes in the dying embers of the Netherlands East Indies and the birth of Indonesia.

The exhibition related to this research, Depokkers: A Colonial tale Unravels, will be on display at the Museum Sophiahof, Indisch Herinneringscentrum, Sophialaan, 10, The Hague, from 4 September 2020 until 29 December 2021.


The Leiden Interdisciplinary Migration Seminars (LIMS) aim at fostering further discussion across disciplines on migration-related topics and creating an open dialogue between the speakers and the attendees. The seminars are a platform for those at Leiden University working on migration-related topics.

More information: The Christian slaves of Depok: a colonial tale unravels

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