This compact volume offers in very readable form a survey of Curaçao society from its foundations as a Dutch trading post in the seventeenth century and its experience as a slave colony, to the decolonization process in the twentieth century.

Among the authors conclusions about the nature of Curaçao slave society is that “leniency” was not necessarily culturally determined. A comparison with Dutch Surinam, and an examination of plantation society in Curaçao itself, where conditions led to the 1795 slave revolt, reveals the existence of some harsher master-slave relationships in the Dutch slave regime. Rather, the general character of slavery in Curaçao was governed by the reality that most slave owners had only a few slaves, and mutual dependence between slave and owner qualified the harshness of the relationship between them.

A second conclusion is that rigid distinctions cannot be made among artisan, household, and agricultural slaves since the labor of each slave varied considerably.

The discussion in the second chapter demonstrates that emancipation (August 2, 1862) did not transform legal freedom into social and economic improvement for the laborer and that the law was used as an instrument to reinforce the free laborer’s dependence on the planter, while color discrimination became an important variable in interpersonal relations and social mobility.

The third chapter examines the transformation of the stagnant economy of the postemancipation era, under the impetus of oil refining, and discusses the implications for modern political movements, the formation of labor unions, modification of the racially based class structure, and the general factors, including racial ones, that sparked the 1969 riots.