The Lifeways of Enslaved People in Curaçao, St Eustatius, and St Martin

In recent years, archaeologists have demonstrated that they can help to deconstruct dominant heritage narratives and develop new ones which are more nuanced and sensitive to both past and present stakeholder and subaltern communities. In this study, material culture from excavated enslaved villages, human remains from excavated enslaved cemeteries, and oral histories from participant interviews, were used to construct alternative narratives of the lifeways of enslaved people on the Dutch Caribbean islands of Curaçao, St Eustatius, and St Maarten/St Martin. The use of qualitative data in a thematic analysis facilitated nuanced understandings of many aspects of enslaved lifeways and allowed comparisons to be made between the islands and between the various datasets as well as between the study area and other regions of the Caribbean and the wider Americas. On each island, the research provided a perspective lacking in the existing literature: in St Maarten/St Martin the evidence indicated that enslaved people here had highly complex spiritual, cultural, and communal lifeways which were intricately linked with the island landscape; in St Eustatius the evidence indicated that enslaved people experienced high levels of stress despite periods of economic and material wealth; and in Curaçao the evidence indicated that the social structures of Atlantic slavery persisted well into the 20th century. Overall, the study demonstrates that narratives describing slavery in the Dutch Caribbean as ‘mild’ have neglected many of the physical and psychological aspects of enslavement for which there is ample evidence. The new narrative presented here is therefore important for our understanding of Dutch Caribbean heritage and structures of modern slavery, the development of island identities, and positive social and political change.

Women’s movement in Bonaire

The audiovisual materials will be permanently archived on Figshare/UvA


March 4th 2023, the finalization of the oral history project of the women’s movement in Bonaire was celebrated. This project was executed by Liliane de Geus and Judith Brekelmans in 2021-2022 and was mentored by Prof. dr. Rose Mary Allen, chair of Culture, Community and History at the University of Curacao.

The project is part of the capacity development activities of the NWO-funded project ‘Cultural Practices of Citizenship under Conditions of Fragmented Sovereignty: Gendered and Sexual Citizenship in Curaçao and Bonaire, 2017-2022 coordinated by Dr. Sruti Bala , Associate professor Theatre studies, University of Amsterdam’.

Twenty-eight persons were interviewed in total. The first group interviewed consisted of 14 persons who were older than 60 years, some of whom were members of the different women’s organizations and the Steering Committee, the umbrella women’s platform. Some of the women in this first group were not directly involved in a woman’s group but were women activists and groundbreakers in their own right in the areas of politics, the labour movement, social affairs, or culture and the arts. The second group consisted of women in the 50-60 age group, while the third group comprised women between the ages of 20 and 49, generally called young professionals. The youngest woman interviewed was 29 years old at the time, and the oldest was 92.


Preparing for a series of extensive oral history interviews on Bonaire to document the women’s movements and participation in the public sphere …. Rose Mary Allen with Jolanda Helmyer-Marsera

Education in St. Maarten from 1954 to 2000

Education in St. Maarten from 1954 to 2000 – An Oral History Account

Milton George

ISBN: 978-1-4438-8892-9

Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016



Semper Progrediens – A Story of the Coming of Age of Education in St. Maarten (1954 – 2000)

KU Leuven, 2013

PDF Dissertatie


This book narrates the development of education in St. Maarten between 1954 and 2000, by tapping into the experience of the protagonists, giving them a voice in the recording of their own history. As such, it lends a voice to postcolonial subjects, who have often been bypassed or forgotten by most traditional historians, and thus rendered voiceless. The work is based on both written and oral history, including interviews with important educational agents, as well as former pupils and parents. By doing this, it describes the overall framework of education in St. Maarten within the juridical space of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


The first part of the book deals with the Dutch Antilles in general, and with St. Maarten in particular, examining the effects of slavery and its consequences. Both before and after the restructuration of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1954, education was essentially shaped by the different religious denominations on the island. Over time, St. Maarten’s schooling system developed from an almost non-existing entity to a well-structured one, which closely resembled the educational framework in the Netherlands, its former colonial ruler.


Part two reflects the respondents’ reactions to several issues concerning education in St. Maarten. It was only after local St. Maarten students became teachers that topics about the island found their place in the curriculum. Even though it took some time to integrate St. Maarten in the curriculum, the people did not (and still do not) have the feeling that education has let them down. It is only now that they are beginning to question whether, and to what extent, schools were, and are, able to positively influence young people. In the past, they believed that schooling – however foreign its curriculum may have been – did actually help them to find a niche in the world.


After studying both written and oral sources, the book concludes that the coat of arms of St. Maarten is representative of its findings about education on this island: Semper progrediens – “Always progressing”. Education in St. Maarten has progressed without showing radical breaks.


Dr Milton George was born in Suriname, and has lived and worked in St. Maarten, the Netherlands, London, Belgium, and Oman. His research interests and publication comprise education, religion, linguistics, and the sociology of the Caribbean. In addition, he has also coordinated and taken part in several volunteer projects in India, Ethiopia, and Egypt.

Statia Silhouettes

Social history of 19th- and 20th-century St Eustatius through life histories told by a number of ‘Statians’.

Saba Silhouettes

This 500 page book includes oral histories of 28 Sabans collected in 1970 by an ethnographic team led by Julia Crane. It contains interviews of a diverse group of people from the island.

Educated to Emigrate

Educated to Emigrate: The Social Organization of Saba
Author: Julia G. Crane

Publisher: Round the World Publishing, 1971
Original from the University of Michigan
ISBN: 9023207025, 9789023207023

Julia G. Crane’s thesis at the Columbia University is a scholastic effort devoted to the Saban people. It inscribes Saban in the journals of history.