Exploring Slave Trade in Asia

Towards an Indian Ocean and Maritime Asia Slave Trade Database

Most of today’s 49.6 million people who live in conditions of slavery are located in Asia (GSI Estimate 2021). These conditions have deep historical roots. Scholarship has noted that slavery and slave trade were widespread throughout maritime Asia from the early modern period well into the nineteenth century and recent estimates indicate that the Asian slave trade may have been almost as extensive as its Atlantic counterpart.

However, in contrast to the Atlantic space a comprehensive and detailed insight in the size, structure and patterns of this slave trade is lacking for the maritime Asia and Indian Ocean region.  

ESTA aims to build a database that reconstructs the historic slave trade in the Indian Ocean and Maritime Asia region in order to facilitate new research, connections, and more global perspectives in collaboration with an emerging network of scholars committed to develop a coherent field of Asian slave trade and slavery studies – including East, Southeast and South Asia as well as South and East Africa.

This project is committed to:

  • Stimulate interaction between scholars and connections between regions.
  • Stimulate more research and archival work to unearth historical data for more accurate reconstructions.
  • Mobilise the wealth of available historical and quantifiable data on slave transportations, enslaved populations, markets and prices.

Upcoming events

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Past events

ESTA Database Launch at International Institute of Social History

6 December 2023, 16:00 – 17:00 CET

ESTA Database Launch at Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies

17 November 2023, 13:30 – 16:30 CET

 “Colonialism, Slavery and Local Histories in Early Modern Asia” 

15 – 16 September 2023

International conference organised by Hans Hägerdal and Merve Tosun in Växjö, Sweden.


Coordinating team

Merve Tosun

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Ulbe Bosma

Project leader
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Matthias van Rossum

Project leader
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Pascal Konings

Junior researcher

Rob Zeeman


Project Partners

Jeanine Bisschoff
Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies

Claude Chevaleyre
ENS Lyon

Stephan Conermann
Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies

Hans Hägerdal
Linnaeüs University

Jane Hooper
Voyages Database

Matthew S. Hopper
Voyages Database

Daniel Domingues da Silva
Voyages Database

Filipa Ribeiro da Silva
International Institute for Social History

Richard Zijdeman
International Institute for Social History

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