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Through Dutch Soldiers’ Eyes: Diaries and Memoires on the Indonesian War of Independence, 1945-1949


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students. Passive command of the Dutch language is required.


In February 2022, the four-year research program Independence, Decolonization, War and Violence in Indonesia, 1945-1950 presented its central research findings. This collaborative effort between three Dutch historical institutes focused on the analysis of extreme forms of violence by Dutch forces within the context of the Indonesian War of Independence. To better understand the public and scholarly debate that produced the recent surge of attention for the war, this course starts with an examination of the nature of the conflict, the violence used within its context and how historians have written about it.

However, the course’s primary focus will be on the character of the sources that determine our historical knowledge of the conflict. Over the past decades, the Dutch-Indonesian war has been studied widely, with various sharp peaks of attention. On the basis of official sources much has been written on policy, diplomacy, military strategy and increasingly also on the actual military engagements and extreme violence used by all sides. Only recently, the study of personal accounts seems to gather momentum.

In this research seminar, we will use soldiers’ diaries written during the war, memoirs written in retrospect and oral interviews. These will be studied and critically compared by the participants in this seminar. In order to do so, students will be taught the methodology and praxis of research in these various personal accounts that will be made available three different in databases.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select literature, using traditional and modern techniques;
  2. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;
  3. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  4. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  5. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;
  6. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;
  7. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
  8. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  9. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;
  10. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    -in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalisation (in particular during the period 1200-1940);
  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subtrack in question, with a particular focus on the following:
    -in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: empirical research from a comparative and connective perspective;

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Seminar

The student will acquire:

  1. knowledge and comprehension of the particular field of Colonial history, and particularly of decolonization and the violent transformations that came with this phenomenon;
  2. knowledge about decolonization wars in general and specifically about this critical period in Dutch-Indonesian relations, including comprehension of debates about the extent and nature of Dutch military violence in this period;
  3. the skills to work with source materials – both published and unpublished written sources, and oral history – that may help us to enhance our understanding of this turbulent era. They will also be instructed in the methodology and actual use of oral history;
  4. (ResMA only:) the skills mentioned above and in addition will be expected to develop competency in linking theoretical analysis to the handling of primary source material.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)
    This means that students must attend every session of the course. If a student is not able to attend, the student is required to notify the teacher beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the teacher will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Written paper based on research in primary source (6.500-7.500 words, excluding title page, table of contents, footnotes and bibliography).

  • Assignment 1: Podcast on (search)method and sources.

  • Assignment 2: Activating literature assignment (weekly).


  • Written paper and related oral presentation: 70%

  • Assignment 1: Podcast on method and sources: 20%

  • Assignment 2: Activating literature assignments: 10%

  • Only for MA Res students: extra paper (2000 words)

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised.

Reading list

Requisite reading: ca. 460 pages of literature, available at the UBL. Reading list and weekly schedule will be made available on Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.


For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.