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.


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Upcoming events

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

15 – 16 September 2023 (applications closed)

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

Past events

“Reconstructing Global Slave Trade: New Data Initiatives in Slave Trade and Slavery Studies”

7 April 2021

Webinar organised by Merve Tosun.

“Capture, Bondage, and Forced Relocation in Asia, 1400 – 1900”

13 – 14 March 2019

International conference organised by Claude Chevaleyre and Jennifer L. Gaynor at ENS Lyon.


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


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