Independence, Decolonization, Violence and War in Indonesia, 1945-1950 is a joint research programme of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), the Netherlands Institute of Military History (NIMH) and the NIOD, Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
Interest in the war that the Netherlands waged in and against Indonesia in the period 1945-1949 has increased substantially in recent years. The legal action instituted against the state of the Netherlands from 2008 by the families of Indonesian victims –represented by the Committee of Dutch Debts of Honour (Komite Utang Kehormatan Belanda, KUKB) of Jeffry Pondaag and his lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld – played a key role in this regard. Investigative journalists, documentary makers and academic researchers also contributed to the revival of interest in the subject. For example, in his study De brandende kampongs van generaal Spoor, historian Rémy Limpach showed that Dutch troops systematically used excessive force.
As a result of Limpach’s book, which was published in September 2016, the Dutch government ultimately decided to make financial resources available for in-depth, independent research into the war in Indonesia. The government thereby opened up to debate the official government position as formulated in 1969, namely that there had been no systematic cruelty on the part of the Dutch army during this war and that the conduct of the armed forces as a whole had been proper in Indonesia.
Focus on violence
The research programme, which consists of eight subprojects, aims to provide academically substantiated answers to questions pertaining to the nature, scope causes and impact of the violence used by the Netherlands as viewed in a broad political, social and international context. The programme does not seek to examine the entire history of Dutch colonialism and the violence and racism that was inherent to that colonialism. That is not the purpose for which the programme was launched and, moreover, such wide-ranging research would require a very different programme structure. It goes without saying that the pre-war society, fundamentally one of inequality, constitutes the essential context and is therefore a crucial factor in terms of being able to understand the later violence.
The programme’s central question concerns the dynamics of events surrounding the violence that occurred from the proclamation of the Republic on 17 August 1945 (the chaotic period from August 1945 to the beginning of 1946) until the end of the war in 1949. Military, political and judicial aspects, as well as the consequences of the violence for different groups in the population, will be studied in detail. The political and social aftermath in the Netherlands will also be covered. Here you can read more about the history of the emerge of the research programme.
Within a number of subprojects, cooperation is taking place with academics from Indonesia and other countries. The purpose of this cooperation is to cast the history of the war in Indonesia and its impact on Indonesian society in the period 1945-1950 in sharper relief and thereby break free from traditional Eurocentric perspectives and terminology and also strengthen the development of postcolonial perspectives. Among other things, these projects examine the effects of the war on local and regional levels in Indonesia and make comparisons with other wars of independence of the period.
Witnesses & Contemporaries
The Witnesses & Contemporaries project provides scope for personal stories from the Netherlands and Indonesia. We invite people who experienced the period 1945-1949 or who have something special to recount regarding the period to share their stories with us and thereby ensure that their stories are preserved for later generations. Stories can be shared by means of letters to the project secretariat, interviews or personal documents, such as diaries or travel logs.
Embedded in society
The three institutes believe that it is important for the programme to be embedded in academia and society. They therefore established a scientific advisory board and a social resonance group for the Netherlands. In addition, discussions are held with a range of groups and organizations in the Netherlands and Indonesia.
The Independence, Decolonization,Violence and War in Indonesia, 1945-1950 programme will run until the end of November 2021. The results of the programme and the various projects will be published in a comprehensive work and in a number of collections and monographs. Some of these works will be published in two or three languages (Dutch, English and Indonesian). The Indonesian researchers will publish their own works as well as articles co-authored with their Dutch counterparts.
If you have any questions or comments about the research programme, please do not hesitate to send them to us by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers to the most frequently asked questions can be found here.