Published On: Thu, Dec 8th, 2022

King orders investigation into his family’s role in colonial history

THE HAGUE — Prof. Dr. Gert Oostindie has been appointed as the chairman and lead researcher of a committee that will investigate the role of the royal family in the colonial history. King Willem-Alexander has ordered the investigation. The investigation will take three years. In 2026 the findings will be made public.

The king’s announcement comes shortly before the Dutch government plans to offer apologies for the country’s slavery history on December 19 on eight different locations: in the Netherlands, in Suriname and on the six islands of the former Netherlands Antilles. Minister Ernst Kuipers (Public Health) is scheduled to offer these apologies in St. Maarten. Suriname opposes the date of 19 December and wants a postponement until July 1, 2023.

King Willem-Alexander stated in a press release issued by the Dutch Government Information service (RVD): “Profound knowledge of the past is essential for understanding historical facts and developments and their impact on people and communities as clear and honest as possible. I find it important that this knowledge also becomes available about the House Oranje-Nassau in the colonial history. This must be done based on profound, critical and independent research.”

The research the king ordered will be done at Leiden University by an independent committee consisting of Prof. Oostindie, historian Dr. Esther Captain, Drs. Kathleen Ferrier and Prof. Henk te Velde.

Oostindie is a retired professor in colonial and post-colonial history at the university’s History Institute. Until the end of 2021 he was the director of the Royal Dutch Institute for South-East Asian and Caribbean Studies (KILTV). In 2006 he published an exploration of the historic role of the House Oranje in the colonial history, entitled The Pearls and the Crown.

Dr. Esther Captain is a historian and a senior researcher at KILTV. She is an expert in post-colonial Netherlands related to Indonesia and the Caribbean region and contributed to researches into slavery and colonialism in Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague.

Drs. Kathleen Ferrier is an expert in international relationships, human rights, diversity and inclusion. She advised the municipality of Amsterdam about the creation of a slavery museum. She also was a member of the Dutch parliament for the CDA where she had international cooperation, education, health and social affairs in her portfolio.

Prof. Henk te Velde is a professor in Dutch history at Leiden University’s History Institute. He is the chairman of the Royal Dutch Historical Society and a member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Science.