Dutch Scholarship in the Age of Empire and Beyond

KITLV - The Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies, 1851-2011


How was the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), which at its inception in 1851 had fewer than a hundred members and only one part-time employee, able to flourish to become, around the turn of the twenty-first century, a modern, professional institute with 1,800 members with a staff of more than fifty employees.
The Institute was founded with support from the highest political and official circles to gather scholarly information about the Dutch colonies in the East and West, not least to undergird colonial policy. KITLV played an important role in this, backed by the Ministry of Colonies and the business world. The Japanese occupation and decolonization led to a difficult process of adjustment for KITLV, which was concluded successfully. With its unique collections, publications, research and its office in Indonesia and involvement in the Caribbean, the Institute has an international reputation.
This book is more than a report on 160 years of KITLV history. It is also a history of scholarly practice about the (former) colonies. These activities, and especially the publications of the institute and its prominent members, are measured against key terms such as orientalism and imperialism, universalism and relativism.

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Biographical Note

Maarten Kuitenbrouwer (1947-2008) was a historian affiliated with the Institute for History at Utrecht University and did pioneering research on Dutch imperialism. At his untimely death he had almost completed the thorough revision and update of the 2001 Dutch-language version of this English edition. This revision has been supplemented and a short biography of the author has been added.

Review Quotes

"This book is obviously an important account of “behind the scenes” KITLV, from its foundation to the present." – Yerry Wirawan, on New Asia Books (posted online on 22 Feb 2016)


All interested in the history of academic research related to the former Dutch colonies.


Collection Information