Institutional memory in the making of colonial culture: history, experience and ideas in Dutch colonialism in Asia, 1700 – 1870.


This project proposes a novel, interdisciplinary approach to the study of Dutch colonial culture in Asia. The central question is how local experience, colonial knowledge and political thought influenced the way colonial officials and clergy perceived the world around them and conceived their own role within that world. In what way did these locally developed colonial cultures spread into the Dutch empire? The project will argue that between 1700 and 1870 the formation of colonial culture should be seen as a continuous, cumulative process that was shaped for the larger part in the offices in Asia, rather than in the libraries of political thinkers in the Netherlands. The project challenges traditional periodization by analyzing colonialism during the VOC and colonial-state period in unity, rather than separately. It will show that until 1870, when the plantation economy and professionalization of officialdom takes off, that colonialism changed only gradually. The project engages with important debates about present postcolonial Netherlands, and starts from the premise that colonial culture in the Netherlands cannot be understood when studied in isolation from its Asian context.

Inspired by the anthropology of work and the concept of ‘organizational identity’, this project examines underutilized material from the colonial offices—specifically those of the residenten, church councils, and Governor General—where day-to-day state-society interaction took place. The thee subprojects focus on discourse analysis in their research into the respective serial administrative, legal and church documents. This will unearth how local experience influenced Dutch visions of the colonial enterprise and vice-versa. The results are connected in the synthesis and linked up with developments in other empires. By arguing that cultures of empire are to a large extent informed by local practice within the empire, this project will offer a novel perspective the evolution of colonial culture.





Dr. A.F. Schrikker

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leiden University Institute for History


Drs. A. van der Meer MA, Drs. P.G. Post MA, Dr. S. Ravensbergen, Dr. A.F. Schrikker


01/01/2018 tot 31/08/2022