Rewriting Dutch Colonial Histories

tm-h-796

Sadiah Boonstra and Caroline Drieënhuizen

Paul Doolan (Zürich International School / University of Konstanz) recently criticized Dutch historians for their failure to decolonize Dutch and colonial history, and suggested the contribution of what he calls ‘outsiders’ as a solution. In doing so, however, he overlooks the fact that there are and have been many initiatives to rewrite Dutch colonial history. We propose instead that approach, method, and the writing of multiple histories are of much greater importance in decolonizing Dutch history.

Critical research on colonial history in the Netherlands

Doolan’s main observation is the existence of what he calls a ‘Guild of Historians’, consisting of mainly white males based in Leiden, which has resulted in a neglect of attention for the dark sides of Dutch colonial history. He sees that the ‘guild’s power’ has started to wane only recently following historical work by ‘outsiders’ like Rémy Limpach, who shows in his recent publication that the Dutch war crimes in colonial Indonesia were widespread, structural and fully supported by the legal, political, and military leadership. Continue reading “Rewriting Dutch Colonial Histories”

Decolonizing Dutch History

The Bushuis: Formerly the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company in Amsterdam. Today this building belongs to the Humanities Department of University of Amsterdam.
The Bushuis: Formerly the headquarters of the Dutch East India Company in Amsterdam.
Today this building belongs to the Humanities Department of University of Amsterdam.

Paul Doolan
Zurich International School and the University of Konstanz

Last month the academic year commenced at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) with speakers celebrating diversity and internationalism. Ironically, the audience in the auditorium was almost entirely white. In Amsterdam the majority of school age children come from migrant backgrounds, yet the university has an overwhelmingly white faculty that lectures to an overwhelmingly white student body. Most remarkable is the widely held attitude that this is not a problem.

As a historian interested in the roots of Eurocentrism and the legacies of imperialism, I would suggest that such an attitude is linked to the failure in teaching imperial history in the Netherlands. Through eight decades since the eviction of the Dutch from Indonesia, Dutch historians have consistently abdicated their responsibility by refusing to properly teach the public about the nature of Dutch rule in the former Dutch East Indies and, in particular, the nature of Dutch warmaking during the final years of the Asian colony, 1945-1949. Continue reading “Decolonizing Dutch History”

Forum Interview – An African Volk: The Apartheid Regime and Its Search for Survival

african-volk

Dr. Jamie Miller’s new book, An African Volk: The Apartheid Regime and Its Search for Survival (Oxford University Press, 2016), is an ambitious new international history of 1970s apartheid South Africa. In it, he makes sense of the many domestic and foreign political, economic, and ideological forces at work in South Africa at the time: decolonization and European imperialism; economic development and cultural globalization; nationalism and anti-communism; Afrikanerdom and African nationalism; white supremacy and postcolonial rights agendas; local politics and the Cold War in the global south. Based on newly declassified documents and oral histories in multiple languages on three continents, Miller gets inside the “official mind” of South Africa’s apartheid regime in Pretoria and uncovers the ways in which these myriad forces found their complements and contradictions.

Miller, having earned his doctorate from the University of Cambridge in November 2013, has been a Fox Predoctoral International Fellow at Yale University, a Visiting Assistant Professor at Quinnipiac University, and a Postdoctoral Fellow at both Cornell and Pittsburgh Universities. He has published articles in the Journal of African History, the Journal of Cold War Studies, and Cold War History. His work has also appeared in the London Review of Books and the Imperial & Global Forum, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @JamieMiller85.

Here is the Forum interview with Dr. Jamie Miller. Continue reading “Forum Interview – An African Volk: The Apartheid Regime and Its Search for Survival”

Debating the History of Humanitarianism

Human-Rights

Andrew Thompson
Director, Centre for Imperial & Global History
University of Exeter

Humanitarianism developed at the intersection of Decolonization, the Cold War, and new & accelerating forms of Globalization. Decolonisation was about much more than the ending of colonial relationships: what was at stake was the dismantling of an entire global order: an old world of imperial states was replaced by a new world of nation states and this ushered in new patterns of cultural, political and economic relations. In the existential struggle that was the Cold War, the control of overseas territory mattered intensely to each side’s sense of security and power.

Capitalist West and socialist East competed to convince nearly and newly independent African and Asian states to adopt their models of humanitarian and development aid. As a result it became more difficult to distinguish aid given to further state interests from that given according to recipient needs. Globalisation meanwhile expanded the range of voices to which humanitarians had to listen while radically differentiating them. Aid agencies intensified their use of the international media, yet were exposed to greater pressures from their donor states and publics.

Together these 3 geopolitical forces − Decolonization, the Cold War, & Globalization − raised far-reaching questions about the relationship of international organizations and NGOs to state power; the basis upon which humanitarian needs were identified and prioritized; and the interaction of humanitarians with non-state armed groups. Continue reading “Debating the History of Humanitarianism”

Tonight (12pm EST, 5pm GMT) Watch Live Streaming ICRC Debate on the History of Humanitarianism with Director Thompson

ICRC (1)

Cross-posted from the International Committee of the Red Cross, where the debate will be streamed live

This livestreamed public event, to be held on 16 September from 18:00 to 19:30, will gather internationally recognized historians, academics and senior humanitarian practitioners to discuss the doctrine of humanitarian principles in critical historical perspective. It will be the public segment of a two-day historical symposium jointly organized by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council, theUniversity of Exeter and the ICRC. The event is inscribed in the Research and debate cycle on principles guiding humanitarian action.

The year 2015 represents a major anniversary for the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement: 50 years ago, its “Fundamental Principles” have been proclaimed at its XXth International Conference  in Vienna. The aim of this conference is to reflect on how these principles have influenced – and been influenced by − the broader humanitarian sector. What can be learnt about the Principles from the rich history of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the wider humanitarian sector, that may in turn provide insights into current realities and act as a guide for the future?

The panelists will discuss the relevance, influence and challenges of the humanitarian principles in three different historical periods: (1) From the Birth of Humanitarianism to the World Wars (c. 1860-1945), (2) Decolonisation and the Cold War (1945-1989) and (3) The Era of “Liberal Interventionism” (1990’s-today). Continue reading “Tonight (12pm EST, 5pm GMT) Watch Live Streaming ICRC Debate on the History of Humanitarianism with Director Thompson”

Britain, France, and their Roads From Empire: A New Talking Empire Podcast

fight or flight thomasMartin Thomas’s path-breaking book Fight or Flight: Britain, France, and their Roads from Empire tells how the world’s two largest colonial empires disintegrated dramatically after the Second World War. Although shattered by war, in 1945 Britain and France still controlled the world’s two largest colonial empires, with imperial territories stretched over four continents. And they appeared determined to keep them: the roll-call of British and French politicians, soldiers, settlers and writers who promised in word and print at this time to defend their colonial possessions at all costs is a long one. Yet, within twenty years both empires had almost completely disappeared.

The collapse was cataclysmic. Peaceable ‘transfers of power’ were eclipsed by episodes of territorial partition and mass violence whose bitter aftermath still lingers. Hundreds of millions across four continents were caught up in the biggest reconfiguration of the international system ever seen.

In this new Talking Empire podcast Professor Thomas talks about the book with Professor Richard Toye.

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

NZ_flag1

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From the hidden history of African decolonization to erasing New Zealand’s indigene symbols, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”