In 2019, the New York Times started reporting on what would become The 1619 Project, a long-form journalistic and historical examination of American slavery. Racists and Republicans are still crying about it and then critical race theory became a “political issue” in the last couple of election cycles. While many, many Americans are still ignorant of our own American history of slavery, it’s worth discussing that many Europeans and Brits are equally ignorant of their countries’ histories in the slave trade and the colonialist plundering of African and Asian peoples. While Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, don’t forget about the Netherlands. Now Dutch King Willem-Alexander has commissioned an independent research project which sounds a lot like the Dutch version of the 1619 Project.
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands has commissioned independent research into the role of the royal family in the country’s colonial past, the Dutch government’s information service (RVD) has announced. Three Dutch historians and a human rights expert will carry out the investigation, which is set to take three years and will span the period from the late 16th century until the “post-colonial” present, the RVD said, without elaborating on the details.
“Profound knowledge of the past is essential to understand historical facts and developments and to see their impact on human beings and communities as clearly and honestly as possible,” the king said in a statement.
The Dutch government later this month is set to apologise for its role in slavery during the nation’s colonial past, and is expected to devote about €200m ($210m) on a fund promoting awareness of the colonial power’s role in slavery and €27m to open a slavery museum. The announcement follows the recommendation last year by an advisory panel that the government acknowledge the 17th-19th century transatlantic slave trade amounted to crimes against humanity.
The Dutch central bank earlier this year apologised for its role in the slave trade and said it would fund projects to raise awareness of slavery and to mitigate the effects it still has on people. The Dutch played a major role in the global slave trade from the 17th century until the Netherlands abolished slavery late in the 19th century.
With the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of abolition next year, Surinamese advocacy groups and others are reinforcing their calls for reparations for the descendants of enslaved people. The Dutch West India Company operated ships estimated to have trafficked 600,000 people into slavery over centuries, according to Dutch state data. Enslaved people were violently forced to work under harsh and dehumanising conditions on plantations in Dutch overseas colonies in the Caribbean and South America.
Good. I’m glad King Willem-Alexander is doing this, although it doesn’t really seem like he has a choice? He’s getting credit for it, for sure, but it sounds like there are a lot of activists and historians already working on this and applying pressure for more to be done. I’ll be honest, I had no idea that the Dutch were involved to this extent. That’s why these history projects are so important. When will King Charles III? LOL, he won’t.
Also: Belgians are getting way too comfortable. The Belgian government and/or Belgian monarchy absolutely needs to commission one of these projects – the atrocities and genocide committed in the Congo under the rule of the Belgian monarchy need to be brought out to the light.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.