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UvA commissions NIOD to investigate its colonial past

Published on 02 July 2024
The University of Amsterdam (UvA) is set to investigate its own colonial and slavery history and has asked the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies to conduct the research. The preliminary research will begin on 1 September.

The research trajectory comprises two parts. During the preliminary phase, NIOD will establish the definitive research assignment, detailing various research domains and identifying relevant sources and methodologies. This phase includes an inventory of the collections, archives, and buildings that need to be examined. Central to this phase is how to investigate the university's position within the colonial system, considering its roles as a training institution, a knowledge institute, and a legitimising entity.

This six-month preliminary research will lay the groundwork for the main research. In the main research phase, a societal and a scientific advisory committee involving UvA experts will be formed. The exact duration of this phase is yet to be determined, but it is expected to take several years.

Historical background

The UvA, founded in 1632 by wealthy Amsterdam citizens as the Athenaeum Illustre, has a long history intertwined with the Dutch colonial past. This is evident in various UvA buildings with a colonial history, such as the Oost-Indisch Huis, and in the collections acquired by the UvA throughout its history.  

Machiel Keestra, the UvA's Central Diversity Officer, initiated the research: “Due to our societal engagement alone, it is important that we, as an Amsterdam university, chart and account for our colonial and slavery past. Understanding our own history is a crucial addition to the various decolonisation projects already underway at the university. In doing so, we also critically examine ourselves as a research and educational institution, which will further contribute to a more diverse and inclusive university.”


The NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies is a national and international knowledge centre for multidisciplinary research into the course, nature, and aftermath of wars, genocide, and other forms of mass violence. Tegenwoordig is het werkterrein van het NIOD breder en minder eurocentrisch. . Current research themes include, in addition to World War II and the Holocaust, perpetrator studies, displacement, memory, and restorative justice. Through its research, NIOD aims to enhance understanding of the role of mass violence in the world, both in the present and the recent past.

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