Kerala eyes an archival treasure trove

The Kerala State Archives Department hopes to lay its hands on a treasure trove of archival records that could shed light on lesser-known facets of Dutch rule in Kerala and the slave trade that once flourished in the region.

Alerted by a researcher who chanced on the collection at the State archives in Chennai, the department has now written to the Principal Secretary/Commissioner of Archives and Historical Research, Tamil Nadu, requesting digital copies.

“There appears to be a substantial collection of Dutch East India Company records pertaining, in particular, to Cochin State during 1657-1825 and the slave trade that was prevalent. This wealth of archival material would be of immense assistance to historians and researchers in Kerala and to our general understanding of history,” J. Rejikumar, director, State Archives, told The Hindu.

The department, in its letter dated June 21, has offered to send experts to Chennai for holding discussions.

Chilling accounts

Incidentally, the department has come to know of the collection in Chennai at a time when the Kerala government — following Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s visit to the Netherlands in early May — is pursuing the possibility of a collaboration between the National Archives, Netherlands, and the State archives.

Arriving in the 17th century, the Dutch were the second colonial power, after the Portuguese, to establish dominance in the region, notably Cochin. It ended in 1795 with the British gaining the upper hand.

“The Chennai archives has in its possession 1,633 files, approximately two lakh pages, in its Dutch collection which describe in detail a historical phase — 1657-1825 — of Kerala, especially Cochin.

These records also provide chilling accounts of the slave trade that took place over a 70-75 year period,” said Cherayi Ramadas, a researcher who, after accidentally encountering the collection during his researches, wrote to Principal Secretary V. Venu and the State Archives director seeking their help to obtain copies for the archives department in Kerala.

“The trafficking had been extensive. The records, in fact, provide data on the slave auctions that used to occur,” Mr. Ramdas said.

The Amsterdam University had digitised a sizeable portion some years ago and handed over hard discs to the Tamil Nadu archives, he said.

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 10:19:29 AM |

Next Story