Veterans' narratives of the Dutch decolonisation war

M.P. Groten

Research output: Contribution to ConferenceAbstractOther research output


From 1946 to 1949, the Netherlands fought a bloody decolonisation war with the newly proclaimed Republic of Indonesia. The official narrative of the Dutch government and military was that Dutch troops were restoring order and peace in a colony which the Republic had plunged into chaos and violence. After the conflict, this interpretation remained dominant for the Dutch soldiers, whose service medals were adorned with the 'order and peace' slogan despite the fact the Republic had reached independence. When the soldiers took to writing their memoires and autobiographies as veterans in later years, this was the narrative in which they generally told their story. Historians have used these memoires to study soldiers' experiences and perceptions to gain a better understanding of the conflict, especially the role of what has become known as 'excessive violence'. However, the processes in which the veteran's narrative was formed have not been studied so far while they seem important: a memoires' narrative is only a final product, written with an audience in mind. How did the conceptualisation of the war develop, from the actual conflict to the final narrative? How does a soldier's diary from the conflict compare with a veteran's memoires from the 1990s? The proposed paper will address these and other questions by using a single Dutch battalion as a case study to investigate in detail the building blocks that resulted in a certain narrative: the military's propaganda, soldiers' experiences, the colonial ideology. Comparing a range of sources from and about this unit gives us insight into the mechanisms and changes behind the memoires and their narrative of war as a narrative of restoring peace and order. The central question is how exactly this narrative took shape during the conflict: what did the war look like behind the narrative?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2016
EventNarratives of War - Huizinga Institute / University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam
Duration: 24 Feb 201626 Feb 2016


ConferenceNarratives of War
Internet address


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