The Generale Lijsten der Hoofdgelden (GLdH) are generally perceived as an unreliable historical source. The biggest issues with the tax per capita lists stem from the historical regulations. Firstly, children under 4 were not taken into account. Secondly, plantation owners were exempt from paying taxes for the first ten years after their plantation was established. (Wolbers, 1861: 169) In addition the nature of this record, being a tax record, lead to the conclusion that not all owners were exactly forthcoming and accurate or honest in the statements:
‘[The] statements do not reflect the number of [enslaved] actually present on plantations, because at times children under 3 and sometimes children under 12 were omitted and, occasionally even the total number of [enslaved people] was withheld.’ (Van Stipriaan, 1993: 311, translation NM)
Thus while the GLdH give a considerable overview of the population of the enslaved in Suriname, this picture will never be exact or complete. In spite of this scholars such as Van Stipriaan and Beeldsnijder have relied on the GLdH, adjusting the data with their own correction models.
Van Stipriaan showed how the corrected GLdH data still proved to be more accurate (probable by approximation) then data presented in other studies (1993: 310-11) Fatah-Black also used the GLdH for his PhD thesis to provide a general overview of the early slavery era. (2013: 162, 170)
As the GLdH-database was being created we have added a number of corrections and complementary data to balance out the notorious unreliability of the GLdH as a source.
Corrections on the original administration
The pages of the GLdH have been corrected on two fronts: data entry of the statements by owners and calculation of the totals by page and year. With regard to the former we refer you to the ‘Notes’ page elsewhere on this website. The latter corrections apply to the years 1713, 1716 to 1718, 1721, 1726, 1727 and 1732. The automated calculation of totals did not match the administrated totals. It was not possible to determine whether these differences stemmed from entry errors or calculation errors, but they have been corrected according to the imputed calculations. The corrected data have been used for the calculation of the estimated death rates, the runaway factor, the deviation for incorrect declaration by owners, etcetera.
Correction for incorrect declaration
Van Stipriaan calculated that the totals of the GLdH for the years 1752, 1774 and 1795 needed to be corrected, respectively, with factors 1,1, 1,41 and 1,76. He based his calculations on a randomly determined deviation from the amounts of enslaved people found in plantation appraisals drawn up in the same years. From the period 1693-1733 decidedly less appraisals have survived, but we have used those that did to determine deviations in declaration for the years 1699, 1710/1711, 1716, 1719-1721 and 1725-1727. From these deviations we determined a factor by year which were subsequently used in the calculation of an average factor for the whole period: 1,05. For these calculations we have applied a highly tentative approach, since so few appraisals were available to base data upon:
1699 – no significant deviations in totals, slight deviations by plantation, attributed to moments of data recording; 5 workable appraisals
1710 – deviation determined equals the estimated death rate; 2 usable appraisals
1711 – deviation determined equals the estimated death rate; 4 usable appraisals
1716 – deviation factor 1,05; 19 usable appraisals
1719 – deviation factor 1,07; 18 usable appraisals
1720 – deviation factor 1,03; 7 usable appraisals
1721 – deviation factor 1,12; 11 usable appraisals
1724 – deviation factor 1,07; 11 usable appraisals
An update on this correction factor will be entered into a new version of the database once the collected appraisals for the years 1726 – 1733 have been processed.
Names of owners and plantations
While the Suriname Heritage Guide contains a vast wealth of information on plantations and their owners, coupling names for consecutive years as presented by the GLdH proved to be a laborious exercise. On the lists were recorded owners, their widows, their heirs, the heirs of the widows, the shared ownerships and sometimes the directors or administrators or just the name of the plantation itself. The shared ownership, which was rampant at the time, made it impossible to take the 1737 Lavaux map and transpose the names thereon onto the preceding years. As it turned out, for every name in the database its connection to a plantation had to be researched for each year of the given period.
Every upcoming version of the database will contain more data ion plantations, their location and main product (at the time, this sometimes changed over the decades).