Gert Oostindie

Gert Oostindie (1955) is director of theKITLV/Royal Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies inLeidenand Professor of Caribbean History at the History Department of Leiden University. He obtained his education in History and Social Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam and Utrecht University, previously held a chair in Caribbean Studies at Utrecht University and was a research fellow at the Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore); the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS, Wassenaar); the Eric Remarque Institute for European Studies at New York University; and the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (Paris). He served on many editorial, scholarly and governmental committees both in theNetherlandsand abroad and is a frequent contributor to the Dutch mass media on his areas of expertise. Professor Oostindie’s principal areas of research have been the Caribbean and Dutch (post)colonial history in a comparative perspective. He (co-)published and edited over 25 books and 200 articles with a wide range of publishers. His most recent publications include Postcolonial Netherlands. Sixty-five years of forgetting, commemorating, silencing (Amsterdam University Press, 2011) and Dutch Colonialism, Migration and Cultural Heritage(ed., KITLV Press, 2008). More information

Abstract 

‘Dutch national greatness’: toleration, democracy, work ethic, and the like – a Golden Century with a long after-story into the present. But by now the other side of the coin is also accepted – not as much in contemporary nation-branding, but certainly among historians. Thus the Golden Century also as an era of elite politics, pseudo-monarchy, imperfect religious toleration, and the beginnings of colonialism. Was there ever an age of innocence? Useful to first go another 150 years back in time, hence 1563, time of the beginnings of the fight against Spain, origins of the Dutch nation.  Fragile narratives of national unity include clear allusions to colonialism, invariably critical – because the Spanish are colonial, and hence their victims, the Indians of the Americas, suffer the same fate as the ‘Dutch’. Hence narratives of solidarity. By 1713, all of that is lost. Heavy Dutch engagement in colonialism, in all continents, without even a need felt for justification.  Slavery and the Atlantic slave trade have become widely accepted within a few decades. This is European world politics, and the Dutch Republic has no intention to lose opportunities. Whatever its real significance for the average Dutch person, liberty and civil rights certainly have become matters for the metropolis and the colonial elites only. It’s all about geopolitics and  economics, just as it is for the other European powers.  Dutch colonialism stands out for one feature: extreme lack of interest in cultural imperialism.

What does the colonial world look like in 1713, and where will it stand in 1863? What meaning did the Peace of Utrecht (1713) have in this long-term development? And how should we define the 1863 Netherlands and its relation to the colonies? And how did the Dutch nation relate to the colonial history and slavery since 1863? So how is the legacy of slavery remembered, in 2013?