Heinrich Carloff

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View of Elmina (Guinea) from the 17th century
Sao Tome in 1645

Heinrich Carloff (* 1621 or 1622; † around 1694) (also called Henrik Carloff or Henry Caarloff ) was a probably Finnish adventurer, merchant, slave trader and governor of Tobago in the Swedish service .


There are hardly any sources about Heinrich Carloff's youth. He is said to have been born in Rostock , then Swedish , Pillau in Polish , according to his own statements he was Finnish . He could have started out as a cabin boy and in the course of his life rose from a soldier, clerk, payroll clerk to tax officer in the Dutch West India Company . As early as 1637 he was used as a soldier and scribe by the Dutch West India Company in Dutch Brazil .

At the end of May 1641, Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen sent Cornelis Jol on an expedition with 21 ships and 2145 soldiers to Luanda , which was conquered in August, and to São Tomé , which was conquered in October, so that Portuguese rule in Africa was temporarily broken. Carloff was hired as an auditor on the island of São Tomé from November . In March 1644 he was busy with the payrolls of the WIC in Amsterdam . From 1645 to 1649 he worked as a tax officer in Fort São Jorge da Mina , Fort Nassau (Ghana) and in Accra and was responsible for inspecting contraband. In 1646 he was sent to the interior of Ghana to establish relations with a local prince. The aim was to restore the trade routes for the transport of gold to the coast. In 1648 he was able to obtain the approval of the heads of the Awutu people for the purchase of land. According to other sources, however, a Dutch boatman in the Swedish service managed to acquire a piece of land.

Due to dissatisfaction with his career opportunities or the poor financial situation of the company, he returned to Europe and was employed first by the Swedish Africa Company as commander and head of Fort Carolusborg in Ghana and later by the Danish West India Company . Back in the Netherlands , he witnessed a trial of competition from the Danish West India Company on the Gold Coast . For a few years he operated as a private slave trade .

From 1665 he worked for the French West India Company . In 1676 and 1677 he was governor of Tobago .


  1. Many sources give Rostock or Pillau as the place of birth; see: Ole Justesen: Danish sources for the history of Ghana 1657-1754 , Bd. 30, Tl 1, 2005, p. 1 ( digitized version ) or also: Adam Jones: German sources for West African history 1599-1669 , studies for Kulturkunde (Volume 66), Frobenius Institute at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt / Main, Verlag Steiner, 1983, ISBN 9783515037280 , page 142 ( excerpt ). - Most sources speak of him as a Rostock.
  2. The construction of the colonial empires edited by Matthias Meyn, Thomas Beck
  3. ^ City Archives Amsterdam, Inv. 5075-1289 / f. 8v and 28v. Need. H. Schaeff op 2/8/1644 and 3/5/1644.
  4. History of Verhael van saken van staet en oorlogh, in, ende ontrent de… By Lieuwe van Aitzema [1]
  5. ^ Sieveking, H. (1937) The Glückstadt Guinea trip in the 17th century. In: Quarterly journal for economic history, vol. 30, p. 29
  6. Heijer, H. den (2011) “Een dienaar van vele heren. De Atlantische carrière van Hendrick Caerloff ”, p. 162-180. In: J.Th. Lindblad en A. Schrikker (red.), Het verre gezicht. Politieke en culturele relaties tussen Nederland en Azië, Africa en America. Franeker.
  7. ^ EW Dahlgren, Louis de Geer 1587-1652; Hans lif och Verk (Uppsala 2002) II: 336-339; CKS Sprinchorn, 'Några drag ur Sveriges kolonialpolitik', Läsning för Svenska Folket (1922) 2. [2]