Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Presidential Panel co-sponsored by The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies - The Wars of Decolonization and the Dutch Experience: A Comparative Perspective
Abstract: The violent wave of decolonization that followed the Second World War is among the key events of the previous century and a most rewarding topic for comparative historical study. While the violence accompanying the British and French decolonization experiences has generated extensive interest, outside the Netherlands, the violent Dutch response to the Indonesian struggle for independence (1945-1949) has been seriously underrepresented. Compounding this neglect, historians have neglected a systematic comparison of (extreme forms of) colonial violence by the various imperial powers. Triggered by revelations of the structural nature of Dutch atrocities, the recently started four year research-program Decolonization, War and Violence in Indonesia, 1945-1950 has sought to address this hiatus by creating an international research group Comparing the Wars of Decolonization, 1945-1962. This group will convene at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) in Amsterdam for three months in the Spring of 2019.

During this Presidential Roundtable, which will be co-sponsored by the NIAS, members of the international research group will launch this project by debating some of the key questions and methodological issues involved. What can we expect to learn from a more systematic comparison of the wars of decolonization that includes the Indonesian struggle for independence? How can we structurally improve our understanding of the scale and forms of, motives for, and the conditions conducive to the extreme use of violence used during the counter-insurgency campaigns in Indonesia, Algeria, French-Indochina and the various British colonies? More specific questions will revolve around the degree of institutionalized torture, the use of technical violence and the use of collective punitive force as a strategic weapon. By drawing on American experience in this type of research, we hope this roundtable will contribute to the analytical framework that guides us when comparing and explaining systems of violence in the age of decolonization.
Thijs Brocades Zaalberg, Netherlands Defence Academy / Leiden University
Roel Frakking, Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies
Brian Linn, Texas A&M University
Martin Thomas, University of Exeter

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