Most likely Surinamese seamen at the Amsterdam Zeemanshuis c. 1915-1916, Beeldbank Amsterdam
Sailors on 19th and 20th-c Dutch merchant marine,  Shipping companies’ records,  VOC pay ledgers

A collection of sailor’s biographies

We’ve added something new to this website: a collection of sailor’s lives. In a number of short biographies, we explore the lives of some individuals and small groups in the data sets we work with, such as the VOC pay ledgers and records of 19th and 20th-century shipping companies.

Our aim with this collection is simply to learn a bit more about the background of the seafarers in our research data. Our quantitative data are a very good starting point for analyzing where sailors came from, how their origin influenced their chances of gaining a promotion to a higher rank on board, and how these things changed over time. But we often find ourselves in need of knowing a bit more about the sailors in our data. What did the lives of VOC crew members look like before joining the company and, if they were lucky enough not do die during their service for the VOC, after returning to Europe? And what’s the story of the 20th-century seafarers that deserted after a single voyage? Did they choose to settle overseas?

The collection currently consists of seven short stories about (groups of) Dutch and foreign sailors from the 18th and 20th century. More will be added soon.