University of Amsterdam launches investigation into its colonial, slavery history
The University of Amsterdam (UvA) launched an investigation into its involvement in the Dutch colonial and slavery past. An independent institute with expertise in the field will do the research, the university said. “This research into our own history is important so that we know the facts, face the legacy of that history, and can render account,” said Machiel Keestra, initiator and Central Diversity Officer of the UvA.
The UvA celebrated its 391st birthday on January 9. Its predecessor, Athenaeum Illustre, was founded in 1632.
“In 1632, Caspar Barlaeus praised the wealthy merchants who founded the Athenaeum Illustre because they combined their entrepreneurial spirit with knowledge and insight. Those companies were undoubtedly connected to the colonies and slavery,” Keestra said. “Various projects on decolonization in a broader sense are now also underway at the UvA.” The research into the university’s past is an integral part of that.
The university will appoint an institute to do the investigation in the spring. The research will be done in two phases. The preliminary examination will inventory which collections, archives, and buildings need further study. Results of this initial phase are expected next year. Then the real investigation will begin. The UvA expects it will take several years.
The UvA investigation follows similar studies by various municipalities, including Amsterdam, and banks like the DNB and ABN Amro. Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologized for the Netherlands' history of slavery on December 19.