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Information panic about the colony. Tools of colonial governance: colonial reports (1848-1940) and mailreports (1869-1940)


Admission requirements

Reading of 19th/20th century Dutch handwriting is required. Most lectures will be given in the National Archives in The Hague.


From the very beginning of the establishment of the colonial state in 1816, the Dutch government had developed a kind of endemic ‘information panic’ about the situation in the East Indies. There was always a fear that the colonial administration was withholding or delaying sending crucial information. The minister was constantly devising new measures to secure the flow of information from the colony. In the first instruction to the Governor General the importance of maintaining ‘an uninterrupted correspondence (…) with the Ministry of Commerce and Colonies’ was emphasised. In addition, the Governor General had to report annually on the situation in the East Indies regarding all matters that had been entrusted to him or to the councils. Finally he was to inform the minister about all decisions made by himself and by the Raad van Indië (Council of the Indies). Every month bundles of copies of all decisions made were sent to The Hague. Since 1848 the role of Dutch parliament increased in colonial matters. To be able to control colonial policy the parliament needed reliable information. The most important source of information for the parliament was the annual colonial report, which was produced by the ministry of colonies, based on the information that was sent by the gvernor-general. After some painful incidents of inadequate reporting by the governor-general a new form of communication between the governor-general and the minister of colonies became obligatory in 1869.
In this research seminar we will research the information basis of the reporting. Who provided information? How reliable was the information? Who made selections of what was sent from the Indies to the Netherlands and what was reported to the parliament? How did the parliament make use of this information? These questions will be at the forefromt in this research seminar.

Course objectives

  • To gain insight into the role, significance and purposes of information, information gathering, information-exchange and archives creation.

  • To discover how the processes of information-gathering and information dissmination were organized in the 19th and 20th century.

  • To improve research skills; esp. in using 19th and 20th century archives.


See here.

Mode of instruction

Research seminar.

  • Total course load for the course is 280 hours.

  • Hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 28 hours.

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 60 hours.

  • Time to write a paper (including reading / research): 192 hours.

Assessment method

Presentation&participation (20%) and paper (80%)



Reading list

Will be provided later.


via uSis.

Contact information

With the tutor: Prof. Dr. K.J.P.F.M. Jeurgens