A Role in Colonialism: The Dutch Royal Family Confronts the Past

role in colonization
The Dutch royal family faces the past

Between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, the Netherlands played a major role in the international slave trade. But how involved was the royal family? The group of historians must now provide answers.

In the Netherlands, King Willem-Alexander has commissioned an independent investigation into the royal family’s role in the country’s colonial past. The Dutch government information service said three historians and a human rights expert would conduct the three-year investigation. The investigation should cover the period from the late sixteenth century to the ‘postcolonial present’.

The Netherlands played an important role in the global slave trade from the seventeenth century until the abolition of slavery in the late nineteenth century. According to state information, the Dutch West India Company maintained ships on which an estimated 600,000 people were taken into slavery over the centuries. Enslaved people were forcibly forced to work in inhumane conditions on plantations in the Dutch overseas colonies in the Caribbean and South America.

With the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery next year, interest groups are increasingly demanding compensation for the descendants of slaves. The government announced its apology this month for its role in slavery. She wants to create a fund of around 200 million euros to raise awareness of the colonial power’s role in slavery.

Government advisors recommended last year that the slave trade in the 17th and 19th centuries should be recognized as a crime against humanity. Dutch bank ABN Amro apologized in April for its legal predecessors’ involvement in the slave trade, plantation servitude and trade in products derived from slavery.

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