Book Review-‘Tussen honger en zwaard. Nederlands Atlantische rijk in de zeventiende eeuw ‘ by W. Klooster

By Gijs Rommelse, published January 2021


In the Netherlands, in common with other Western countries, the colonial past has during the last ten years become the subject of an emotionally charged and strongly polarizing debate. More than the historical facts and developments themselves, their significance for present and future generations has become the most important element of the discussions. This has served to highlight the fact that the Netherlands since the 1950s has gradually become a multicultural and multi-ethnic country, which in turn has led to the need for a new meta-story of origin and identity. Some, such as the members of action group ‘Kick out Zwarte Piet’ (Black Pete, the blackface character that is the traditional assistant of Sinterklaas, St Nicholas) do their best to pull the icons of the former Dutch empire from their pedestals. Not confining themselves to obvious examples, such as Jan Pieterszoon Coen, governor general of the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC) , who in 1621 instigated the genocide of the population of the Banda Islands, or Admiral Michiel de Ruyter, ‘hero’ of the great seventeenth-century Anglo-Dutch sea wars, who has also come under fire for his involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Because of this, protests were mounted at the première in 2015 of Roel Reiné’s film of De Ruyter’s career. However, outside the multicultural Randstad in the west of the country, there is less sympathy for protests of this kind. In the Reformed Protestant town of Urk, in the province of Flevoland, there arose a surge of public opinion aimed at having the streets of a new housing project named for seventeenth-century naval heroes…

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Filed under: Other (Early Modern)
Subjects include: Strategy & Diplomacy

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