The Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie (MCC), founded in 1720, was a trading company from Middelburg in the Netherlands. Apart from trade on the ports of the Baltic and Mediterranean Sea, the company was also engaged in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, into which it gradually began to specialize. From 1732 till 1803 the company bought 31.095 enslaved Africans with the purpose of selling them in the West-Indies. After the abolition of the slave trade, the company became a ship construction company. In 1889 it was officially disbanded.
Transfer of the archives
After the company ended, the archives were handed over to the Provincial Library of Zeeland, which after a few years transferred them to the State Archives in Zeeland. The State Archives in Zeeland merged in 1999 with the municipal archives of Middelburg and Veere to form the Zeeland Archives. The Zeeland Archives manages the archives of the MCC and made the archives accessible to the public online. Extensive information about the history of the archives can be found in the introduction to the archive inventory.
Archivist W.S. Unger (1889-1963), Royal Archivist of Zeeland, began an inventory of the MCC archives in 1945. The printed inventory ‘The Archive of the Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie’ appeared in 1951.
After this publication, the acronym MCC was adopted for ‘Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie’. Until that time the company had been known as the “Commercie Compagnie of Middelburg’. The logo ‘CCM’ can be still found on many archive documents.
The documents from the archives of the MCC provide a detailed picture of the slave trade. The detailed information in addition to the completeness and good condition of the archives resulted in the inscription of the archives in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. Since May 2011 the archives of the MCC are listed as international documentary heritage.
The Zeeland Archives digitized the complete archive of the MCC in 2012-2015. The digitization of the 100-meter-long archive resulted in approximately 320,000 scans, all of which have since been available for consultation in the online archive inventory. Digitization has been made possible in part by Metamorfoze, the Dutch National Program for the Preservation of Paper Heritage.
Because the online offering of an archive does not automatically generates more visitors and more attention to the content of the archive, the Zeeland Archives decided to present one of the triangular voyages from the archive in the form of this blog.
From day to day in 2013-2015
The weblog about the voyage of the ship The Unity was published day by day from October 1, 2013 to March 25, 2015. During a year and a half, visitors followed the events on board, 252 years ago. During the period of publication, about 52,000 visitors from the Netherlands and abroad visited the blog.
Commemoration in 2014
The Netherlands banned the trade in enslaved people in 1814. In 2014, 200 years of abolition was commemorated with a national commemoration in Middelburg. This blog was part of the memorial program.
Human Rights Council 2015
At the invitation of the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Zeeland Archives presented the archive of the MCC and this weblog about the voyage of the Unity in the 28th session of the Council in Geneva in March 2015.
In 2015, the Zeeuws Archief completed the digitization of the complete, 100-meter-long archive of the MCC. The digitization resulted in approximately 320,000 scans, all of which have since been available for consultation in the online archive inventory.
In 2017, the Zeeland Archives made an online exhibition of the voyage of The Unity on the platform of Google Arts & Culture. The exhibition entitled “Into the Triangle Trade” was awarded the Jury Prize of the national Dutch History Online Prize in 2019. The jury praised the Zeeland Archives for the way in which it “tells a fascinating, and nowadays controversial, story in a neutral manner, based on knowledge and historical sources”.
The Great Suriname Exhibition
In 2019, the Zeeland Archives contributed to De Grote Suriname exhibition in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. The exhibition explained the history of transatlantic human trafficking on the basis of archive documents from the MCC archive. The video about this weblog and archive documents of the journey of the Unity were also shown. Due to its success, the Nieuwe Kerk exhibition was extended and attracted more than 150,000 visitors in five months from October 2019.