1 SAILING NETWORKS: MAPPING COLONIAL RELATIONS WITH SURINAME S SEVENTEENTH- CENTURY SAILING LETTERS Main applicant: Dr. M. van Groesen (UvA, UD Early Modern History, Institute for Culture and History) Co-Applicants Geodan (Private Partner. Contact person: ir. Steven Ottens) Het Scheepvaartmuseum (Public Partner) Prof. dr. Joost Schokkenbroek (VU, Professor of Maritime History and Maritime Heritage; Het Scheepvaartmuseum, Manager Academic Programs) Suze Zijlstra, MA (UvA, PhD Candidate Early Modern History) Dr. Dienke Hondius (VU, assistant professor) Adviser: dr. Niels van Manen (Vrije Universiteit, Spatial Information Laboratory (SPINlab)) Summary With data from correspondence, this project aims to develop an interactive online platform which maps the social relations between colonists in Suriname and their contacts in the Dutch Republic in the Disaster Year Through this clearly defined case-study, the project intends both to develop innovative GIS software and to instigate a new method to analyze early modern colonial relations with data from the vast Sailing Letters collection. The project offers a unique opportunity to inspire further research: the Sailing Letters networks from different colonies and periods such as the Indonesian archipelago and the Antilles in both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries can be integrated and compared after successful completion of this pilot. With GIS software, other types of (colonial) networks can be visualised and analyzed applying a similar method. Finally, the tool can be used for educational purposes and for the public dissemination of maritime and colonial heritage. Project description During the Third Anglo-Dutch War ( ), when English privateers took possession of several ships sailing from the Dutch colony Suriname to Zeeland in 1672, the authorities in England had to establish whether they were legitimately taken. The papers that the ships transported from Suriname almost a thousand handwritten letters and bills of lading eventually ended up in the UK National Archives together with nearly forty thousand early modern Dutch letters, better known today as the Sailing Letters. The letters from 1672 Suriname will serve as the basis for this project. This clearly-defined body of sources is perfect for this pilot study, as it embodies a vast amount of qualitative data to provide the project team with challenging material for digital analysis. The project will develop Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software that visualises the relationships between correspondents, which will lead to new academic insights in colonial networks. The website will allow the user to explore the Suriname Sailing Networks while also offering access to the letters. The correspondents in the database will be connected to high-resolution pictures of their correspondence, and linked to transcriptions of the Meertens Instituut (www.gekaaptebrieven.nl). Before launching the website, the project participants will analyze and submit for peer-reviewed publication the most important academic results. The Sailing Networks project builds on PhD research conducted by Suze Zijlstra, whose ongoing study of the development of power relations in seventeenth-century Suriname is
2 funded by the NWO program Promoties in de Geesteswetenschappen. 1 She is making extensive use of the 1672 Suriname letters, as the approximately 800 letters provide unique information about the colony. Her database of these letters containing information on correspondents, recipients, the locations of dispatching and the destinations will be used and expanded in the Sailing Networks project. The 1672 Suriname letters are challenging material from various perspectives. From a temporal viewpoint: Two-thirds of the letters were sent in January and the rest in September, offering the possibility of tracking changes in colonial networks. Even within a short period of time these changes were significant, as tropical diseases and migration highly influenced the composition of Suriname s plantation society. The tool that this project will develop allows for a better understanding of the extent of such changes. From the perspective of the correspondents ethnic origins: while Dutch planters wrote the majority of the letters, there is also a significant amount of Sephardic correspondence. Historians have traditionally assumed that Jewish networks were much more tight than other European networks. Visualising the relationships through a GIS application will offer a new way of establishing the accuracy of these assumptions. Through the variety in types of relations between correspondents: the collection consists of business as well as personal letters, which offers the opportunity to compare different types of networks. The Sailing Networks project is novel in its exploration of the Sailing Letters collection with GIS methods. The letters are a unique collection of colonial heritage that has been fruitfully studied in various academic disciplines the NWO Letters as Loot project of prof. dr. Marijke van der Wal (UL) investigates colloquial early modern Dutch, while historians such as Roelof van Gelder have used the collection to gain insight in daily life and social relations in the Dutch Republic and its colonies. However, scholars have not yet explored the possibilities of mapping the relations between the Sailing Letters correspondents with GIS software. The project aims to create innovative GIS technologies to analyze social networks using historical data. While GIS methods have been well integrated in the field of archaeology, most historians have made little use of them. Indeed, even though history has taken a spatial turn, incorporating geographical analysis in historical research, historical GIS (HGIS) is still a method mainly used by historical geographers and social and economic (art) historians (Von Lünen and Travis, 2013, vi). When used, it predominantly visualises historical data on a map. Only recently it is used to visualise connections between actors. Internationally, the field of HGIS is evolving and incorporating new techniques to make such visualisations of connections possible. The pioneering visualisation tool Mapping the Republic of Letters developed at Stanford University, for instance, shows connections in the Republic of Letters (http://www.stanford.edu/group/toolingup/rplviz/). The epistolarium tool that the project Circulation of knowledge and learned practices in the 17thcentury Dutch Republic is developing (http://ckcc.huygens.knaw.nl/) broadens the possibilities for analyzing intellectual correspondence with even more advanced techniques. Both aforementioned tools, however, focus on contacts within an intellectual community, while the Sailing Letters are of another character containing communication between relatives, merchants, and friends, as well as quantitative material such as bills of lading. This heterogeneous material requires another kind of approach. The Sailing Networks tool will 1 Domination or Collaboration: The Development of Power Relations between Ethnic Groups in the Seventeenth-Century Plantation Colony Suriname. Supervisors: prof. dr. H.F.K. van Nierop and dr. M. van Groesen.
3 offer extensive possibilities, but will focus on the characteristics of colloquial correspondence, containing options to distinguish between different types of relations, to choose more than one sender in order to gain insight in subsets within a network, and also to visualize the amount of trade that was conducted between individuals. Moreover, in the Sailing Networks tool (contemporary) maps will be the starting point of analysis, with interactive options within the map to explore the letters. When using GIS software for the analysis of historical data, the Sailing Networks project adopts a critical non-representationalist approach. The GIS method has been criticized in the humanities because of its representative thinking: while data are never complete, GIS is perceived to present data as being absolute. However, this does not mean that GIS is not suited for application in the humanities. When adopting a non-representational approach, GIS can be used in the realization that the past can never be understood as a frozen and pregiven entity (...) but rather as something that continuously melts down and is remade in the present (Hacigüzeller, 255). This accounts for the fact that there are never definitive explanations (ibid.). With the development of a GIS tool, the Sailing Networks project specifically aims to develop an addition to more traditional types of interpretation in the humanities: rather than aiming for it to be a definitive way of interpretation in itself, the GIS tool will offer an an extra lense of interpretation. Geodan Research has encountered similar issues of representation: incomplete or fuzzy data appear absolute when represented in a software application. However historical reality is invariably too layered and diffuse to be captured in a single-layered model of representation. The Sailing Networks project therefore challenges software engineers to explore new ways of representing fuzzy data. While the Sailing Letters collection is extensive, it has its limits: often only a place of residence, but not an address is provided. Not all correspondents sign their letters, and they do not always address the recipients clearly. An important aspect of the Sailing Networks project from a software development perspective is to explore ways to express such incompleteness in a geographical visualisation tool. More specifically: within the Sailing Networks tool, there should be different layers of analysis in which it becomes clear how complete the information is on which the visualisation in each layer is based. Combining expertise from the fields of History, Heritage Studies, and Geo-Information Science and Software Engineering, this project has a strong multidisciplinary approach. The project is embedded in major international academic developments. The subject matter is embedded in the firmly-established field of Atlantic History and the developing field of Global History. The relevance of the Dutch case to Atlantic history has already been demonstrated in an NWO project Dutch Atlantic Connections of prof. dr. Gert Oostindie (UL) and in various publications (Postma and Enthoven, 2003). The Sailing Networks project follows the approach of the Atlantic as one space, with interconnected actors from both sides of the ocean shaping the course of history in the Atlantic basin. The Sailing Letters have until now mainly featured in Dutch publications, but research into this collection has the potential to offer a valuable new perspective in the international field of Atlantic History as well. The Sailing Networks project therefore offers more opportunities to establish Dutch involvement in this international arena. For Zijlstra s PhD project on seventeenth-century Suriname, Steven Ottens (Geodan) is developing an application in which the colonists can be tracked thus taking a spatial turn in the historical analysis of the colony s social relations. This application is built to visualise developments within the colony, and does not yet show which colonists corresponded with the same persons. The 1671 map integrated in this program, the most accurate available map of this period, will serve as the starting point to map the Sailing Letters.
4 UTILISATION/RELEVANCE The geographic information tool that will be developed, will be accessible online. With this interactive tool, researchers can gain new insights into colonial networks, as they will be able to choose which part of the network they wish to visualise. Through this visualisation, they can further explore the sources. The software will be released as open access, thus enabling researchers to further develop this during related projects. Geodan Research will host the Sailing Networks website, ensuring a long-term sustainable dissemination of the project results to a large audience. The tool will provide the general public with a new way to discover the Sailing Letters and to explore Dutch colonial heritage. The letters have already been popularised in various Dutch media (Sailing Letters Journaal series of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Roelof van Gelder s monhtly column in NRC Handelsblad s magazine M, television program Brieven boven Water ). Moreover, the large amount of activities organized in 2013 to remember and celebrate the abolition of slavery in 1863 shows that the Dutch colonial past is still actively commemorated in Dutch society. Especially now that public institutions responsible for preserving colonial heritage are getting less or no government funding the internet will become more important in preserving and disseminating maritime and colonial heritage. Interactive web-based tools are moreover important to reach a young generation. Geodan and SPINlab will offer their expertise on the development and managing of geoinformation tools for educational purposes (http://www.edugis.nl/). The Sailing Networks website thus has the possibility of becoming a valuable new application for teaching purposes. The tool that this project develops offers great potential for further research and development. The large total amount of letters in the Sailing Letters collection, both from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, can serve as a basis for a much broader analysis of the evolution of colonial networks. The embedded researcher will be offered time to write a PhD proposal for a project that would use and develop the tool to compare the correspondence networks from various colonies, and to research developments in these networks over time. On a more general level, with this type of software any kind of social-geographic network could be mapped, visualised, and analyzed, while also providing possibilities to compare heterogeneous data sets. Developing new ways to work with fuzzy data and visualize the level of its quality is important for Geodan s core business now and in the near future.
5 12. Literature Publications of applicants Groesen, Michiel van. Officers of the West India Company, Their Networks, and Their Personal Memories of Dutch Brazil. In The Dutch Trading Companies as Knowledge Networks [Intersections: Yearbook for Early Modern Studies 14], edited by Siegfried Huigen, Jan de Jong, and Elmer Kolfin, Leiden & Boston: Brill, The Representations of the Overseas World in the De Bry Collection of Voyages ( ). Leiden & Boston: Brill, , ed. The Legacy of Dutch Brazil: The Long-Term Impact of a Short-Lived Atlantic Colony. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming. Hondius, Dienke. Black Africans in Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam. Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 31, no. 2 (2008): Race and the Dutch: On the Uneasiness Surrounding Racial Issues in the Netherlands. In Paradoxes of Cultural Recognition. Perspectives from Northern Europe, Aldershot: Ashgate, Schokkenbroek, J.C.A. Een Borkummer Walvisvaarder Vleugellam. Scheepsjournalen En Brieven van Roelof Olfertsz Meeuw. In De Gekaapte Kaper. Brieven En Scheepspapieren Uit de Europese Handelsvaart, edited by Erik van der Doe, Perry Moree, and Dirk Tang, Zutphen: Walburg Pers, Schokkenbroek, J.C.A. (met Jeroen ter Brugge), ed. Kapers En Piraten. Schurken of Helden? Zutphen: Walburg Pers, Zijlstra, Suze. Corresponderen om te overleven: Het economische belang van persoonlijke brieven uit zeventiende-eeuws Suriname. Tijdschrift voor Zeegeschiedenis 31, no. 1 (2012): To Build and Sustain Trust: Long-distance Correspondence of Dutch Seventeenthcentury Merchants. Dutch Crossing 36, no. 2 (2012): Slaafse vrouwen in Suriname: De representatie van de verhouding tussen man en vrouw in vroegmoderne reisteksten. OSO, Tijdschrift voor Surinamistiek 29, no. 2 (2010): National and international key publications Bailyn, Bernard. Atlantic History: Concept and Contours. Cambridge, MA, etc.: Harvard University Press, Bailyn, Bernard, and Patricia L. Denault. Soundings in Atlantic History: Latent Structures and Intellectual Currents, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, Doe, Erik van der, Perry Moree, and Dirk J. Tang, eds. De dominee met het stenen hart en andere overzeese briefgeheimen. Sailing Letters Journaal. Zutphen: Walburg Pers, Gelder, Roelof van. Sailing letters: verslag van een inventariserend onderzoek naar Nederlandse brieven in het archief van het High Court of Admiralty in The National Archives in Kew, Groot-Brittanië. Den Haag: Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Zeepost: nooit bezorgde brieven uit de 17e en 18e eeuw. Amsterdam etc.: Atlas, Greene, Jack P., and Philip D. Morgan, eds. Atlantic History: a Critical Appraisal. New York, NY etc.: Oxford University Press, Hacigüzeller, Piraye. GIS, Critique, Representation and Beyond. Journal of Social Archaeology 12, no. 2 (2012): Lünen, Alexander von, and Charles Travis. History and GIS: Epistemologies, Considerations and Reflections, Postma, Johannes, and Victor Enthoven, eds. Riches from Atlantic Commerce: Dutch Transatlantic Trade and Shipping, Leiden etc.: Brill, Wal, Marijke van der, Gijsbert Rutten, and Tanja Simons. Letters as Loot. Confiscated Letters Filling Major Gaps in the History of Dutch. In Letter Writing in Late Modern Europe, Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins, 2012.
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