Life on board was very structured. There was enough work to be done, such as cleaning, making repairs and keeping watch. Once the crew boarded the ship they were divided into watches. Almost every watch lasted four hours. The duration of the watch was measured by an hourglass, or glass. Each glass lasted half an hour. After each half hour the hourglass was turned over while simultaneously ringing the ships bell so all members of the crew knew half an hour had passed.


The Unity
Longitudinal cross-section of the ship The Unity.


Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie (MCC) 1720-1889 – NL-MdbZA_20_383_0018

Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie (MCC) 1720-1889 – NL-MdbZA_20_383_0034

Middelburgse Commercie Compagnie (MCC) 1720-1889 – NL-MdbZA_20_383_0037



Introduction Lesson 3.1 Conditions on board Lesson 3.1 Circumstances on board – Math Lesson 3.1 Circumstances on board – Language Lesson 3.1 Circumstances on board – WO


Viewing assignment – film (internet)

Warning: Some images shown can be experienced as shocking.

The Klokhuis episode De slavernij junior : Slaven (Slavery Junior: Slaves; Episode 1. 21:12 min.; Dutch spoken, subtitles available in various languages. Click ‘subtitles’ in the bottom right-hand corner and move the arrow to ‘Translate subtitles’. Select a language and click OK).

This short film is about the history of the triangle trade. Ships sailed with trade goods from the Netherlands to Africa to purchase slaves, gold and ivory (a barter system). Goods and enslaved Africans were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to the West Indies (South- and North America and the Caribbean). There the Africans were sold as slaves to work the plantations. The ships departed from there to the Netherlands with their return cargo, mostly sugar, cacao, coffee and tobacco. The three boys in the film explore the history of slave trade. They ask experts questions and one of the boys has research done to learn from what country his ancestors originated.
Watch the episode about slave trade and the make the assignment.


  1. Discuss the film in class. What did you think of this episode? Did it give you an idea of how slave trade was organized? What image or scenes stayed with you the most and why? Take notes on what you discussed.
  2. The boys in the film ask questions to various people. In small groups of four or five students, make a list of questions about slave trade that you would like to ask the experts listed below:
  3. - A historian who has researched slave trade.
    - The director of a museum with objects used for slave trade in the collection or for instance housed in a building or fort that was used for slave trade.
    - An archivist who maintains archives on slave trade and genealogical research.
    - An archeologist who has done excavations and research on slave trade.
    - A representative of a group, association or foundation dealing with the legacy of slavery.

  4. If possible, the teacher can invite one or more experts to class so the students can ask questions. Perhaps you can also ask questions by e-mail or phone, or visit the institute where the expert works. See for ideas the lesson suggestions.
  5. Process the questions and answers in a paper, in which you incorporate a short report about the film and your notes from the first assignment.
Worksheet extra assignments

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