Johan Maurits and his role in the history of international slavery
The Mauritshuis was built for Johan Maurits of Nassau-Siegen. The Dutch Republic began to take part in the transatlantic slave trade while he was Governor of the Dutch colony in Brazil (1636-1644).
In 1630 the Dutch West India Company (WIC) conquered Portuguese colonies on parts of the Brazilian coast. Those areas were significant because of their numerous sugarcane plantations - sugar could be very remunerative in Europe. In 1636 the WIC appointed Johan Maurits as governor of the new colony. He received a salary and a percentage of the income from trade.
When Johan Maurits arrived in Brazil, he quickly realised that there was a lot of work to do on the plantations, but there were not enough labourers. He sent a fleet to West Africa, and conquered Fort Elmina on the Gold Coast (now Ghana). That fort was built by the Portuguese to secure their mined gold. But Elmina was also an important centre for the slave trade; African men, women and children were captured there to be sold in South America as slaves.
A system called the 'triangle trade' was established after the conquest of Fort Elmina. Weapons, gunpowder and drink were shipped to West Africa on Dutch ships. Boatloads of African men, women and children were taken to South America as merchandise to work on colonial plantations. The Dutch ships then took sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco and cotton back to Holland. While Johan Maurits was governor, thousands of enslaved Africans were shipped to Brazil - we estimate the total number to be about 23,500. The Dutch share in the international slave trade increased even further after this time. The Netherlands officially proclaimed the end of slavery in 1863, one of the last European countries to do so.