Timelines: Timeline of African Slavery in the Former Swedish Empire, 1626 – 1878

Shalom, everyone! Although not widely known as a colonial power in the Americas and Africa, Sweden was involved in the Transatlantic Slave Trade of Africans from the Gold Coast. The Swedish colonies in the Americas were New Sweden along the Delaware River, Saint Barthélemy (St. Barts) and Guadeloupe.  The following is a timeline of African slavery in the former Swedish Empire from 1626 to 1878. Please note that this post is a work-in-progress. As more information becomes available, this timeline will be updated:

Year Historical Event
1626 The Swedish South Company a/k/a Company of New Sweden is established. The company was a consortium of Swedish, Dutch and German business interests dedicated to establishing trade between Sweden and the Americas.
1638 The colony of New Sweden established by the Swedish South Company along the Delaware River, including settlements in modern Delaware (Wilmington), Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) and New Jersey (New Stockholm and Swedesboro).
1638 – 1655 Swedish South Company sponsored 11 expeditions to Delaware.
1641 Swedish South Company granted a monopoly on tobacco by the Queen Christina of Sweden.
1649 Swedish South Company loses its monopoly on tobacco.
1649 Swedish Africa Company is established with the primary interest of trade on the Swedish Gold Coast.
1650 A Swedish colony known as the Swedish Gold Coast established by Hendrik Carloff on the Gulf of Guinea in present-day Ghana. He arrived at the Gold Coast on April 22, 1650. Carloff signed a contract for the purchase of land with the chief of Efutu.
1655 New Sweden annexed by New Netherland, a Dutch republic located on the east coast of North America.
1663 (22 April 1663) Swedish Gold Coast seized by Denmark and integrated into the Danish Gold Coast. Swedish Africa Company is dissolved.
1680 Swedish South Company is dissolved.
1784 (1 July 1784) France cedes control of Saint Barthélemy (St. Barts) to Sweden in exchange for trading rights in the Swedish port of Gothenburg.
1784 (1 September 1784) First Swedish governor, Salomon von Rajalin, appointed to administer the island, sailing from Gothenburg on December 4, 1784, arriving in Saint Barthélemy on March 6, 1785. At the time, the island had a population of about 750 of whom 281 were slaves.
1785 The French port of La Carénage in Saint Barthélemy was renamed Gustavia after the Swedish king, Gustav III.
1786 (28 August 1786) Slave trade to Saint Barthélemy was included in the “Ordinance respecting the Duties on the Island of St. Bartholomew.”
1786 (31 October 1786) Swedish West India Company was established on Saint Barthélemy with responsibility for maintaining the port and the employment of Swedish officials. It was the main operator in the Swedish slave trade during its existence. By the end of the century, around 1,330 ships visited the port of Gustavia annually.
1787 (30 July 1787) Slavery was practiced in Saint Barthélemy under the “Ordinance concerning the Police of Slaves and free Coloured People” of 1787.
1790 (12 March 1790) The taxation regime for the shipment of slaves was established.
1812 During the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain, 20% of American exports are routed via Saint Barthélemy, thereby allowing trade on the island to flourish.
1812 Swedish parliament transferred the colony of Saint Barthélemy to the king as his private property. A colonial department was established in the king’s chancellery and customs duties and revenues were paid into the king’s Saint Barthélemy fund.
1813 (3 March 1813) Britain cedes Guadeloupe to Sweden as a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars.
1813 (13 August 1814) Sweden cedes Guadeloupe back to France under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, for a settlement of 24 million francs.
1819 Between a third to half of Saint Barthélemy‘s population were registered slaves (estimations are between 1,283 and 2033 slaves)
1839 Gustavia loses its role as a free port due to a severe decline in trade.
1840s Swedish parliament rules that Saint Barthélemy once again included under national administration.
1847 (9 October 1847) Slavery abolished in Saint Barthélemy.
1878 (16 March 1878) Sweden transfers Saint Barthélemy back to France. The territory is administered as part of Guadeloupe. The transfer agreement was signed in Paris on 10 August 1877, ratified in Stockholm on 9 November 1877, and in Paris on 4 March 1878.


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