The travelers

Michel Doortmont

I am Michel Doortmont, a reader in African studies, international relations, and history at the University of Groningen and the African Studies Centre at Leiden University, The Netherlands.

Among my areas of specialisation are the mutual history of Ghana and the Netherlands, the history of the Dutch West India Company, the Atlantic slave trade, and slavery. On these subjects I have published widely. I first came to Ghana in 1989, and have been making visits on a regular basis since 1995, for a range of research and heritage management projects.

Currently I am also engaged in a collaborative research programme on Northern Ghana, Society and Change in Northern Ghana: Dagomba, Gonja, and the Regional Perspective on Ghanaian History in which I cooperate with colleagues Dr. Samuel Ntewusu of the University of Ghana at Legon and Dr. Felix Longi of the University for Development Studies in Tamale.

I am an editor of History in Africa: A Journal of Method, and a founding editor of the book series African Sources for African History and Sources for African History, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and member of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS).

In the project "Presto returns to Ghana" my research into the history of the Dutch presence in Ghana in the mid-eighteenth century comes together with Annemieke's research into the life-history of her African ancestor Christiaan van der Vegt, a.k.a. Presto. My special interest in developing this field trip is that it allows for an experiment in alternative research methods to write the history of the Atlantic slave trade and the African diaspora, through the case study of a single individual.

Annemieke van der Vegt

I am Annemieke van der Vegt, project manager Online at Le Blanc Advies, responsible for all aspects of the company's online presence and connected developments. Making digital and online structures and tools work for business visibility, contacts, and communication is my expertise.

Since three years I actively research the life history of my ancestor Christiaan van der Vegt, a.k.a. Presto. When googling my surname in 1998, I discovered that I had an African ancestor and name-giver. After having checked if my African origins were actually real, I let the matter rest, however.

By 2013 the time had come to start my own historical and genealogical investigation. By this time, many sources and tools for research had become available online, opening possibilities of research well suited to my expertise. This is not to say that I did not have to learn to do historical research the old-fashioned way as well, visiting archives and libraries, and reading through original records, as well as learning historical research methods and methodologies that were all new to me.

For the publication of my research activities and reports, I set up an open access research structure. This way the world is able to follow my quest on a blog, as well as Facebook and Flickr pages, and Pinterest board, contribute to it, and enter into active discussions with me. Altogether, this has allowed me to reconstruct a detailed image of Christiaan's life, his social circles, and the times he lived in. A reconstruction that is still ongoing.

This field trip makes it possible to research the context of the first years of Christiaan's life in Africa, the environment he grew up in, the culture, and the economic and political circumstances of the period.