Postdoc Position

Updated: 2 months ago
Deadline: 19 Apr 2021

Leiden University

The Faculty of Humanities is rich in expertise in fields such as philosophy, religious studies, history, art history, literature, linguistics, international studies and area studies, covering nearly every region of the world. With its staff of 930, the faculty provides 27 masters and 25 bachelors programmes for over 6,000 students based at locations in Leiden’s historic city centre and in modern buildings in The Hague. For more information, see the website of Humanities .

The project Exploiting the Empire of Others can be summarized as follows. Early Modern European empires are portrayed and perceived as nationally geared enterprises, as entangled spaces at the peripheries and as zones of contact. In the Netherlands, these perceptions have filtered into the public debate that seeks to define material and immaterial responsibilities for the colonial past. What the historiographical perceptions, academic portrayals and public debate seem, however, to ignore is the role played by foreigners (being non-subjects of a specific king or republic) I exploiting the empires of other countries. This project will establish how and why Dutch entrepreneurs (being those taking risks in matters of trade or production, introducing innovations, making decisions based on information that others did not possess and searching for opportunities where most perceived risk) participated in exploiting the English, French and Iberian Empires, as Dutch firms are particularly prominent in the European colonial landscape. Since Dutch entrepreneurs engaged in exploiting the resources of other countries, what is the future of the public debate in the Netherlands, and Europe at large, regarding a shared responsibility for the colonial past?

The answer(s) to these questions can be found in the multiple public and private archives that house extensive collections of the firms that operated from the Dutch Republic into the four largest empires in Western Europe. By combining original and recently uncovered archival sources pertaining to the relevant men (and some women), businesses and activities and their relationships with fellow traders, investors and political powers in situ, this project carries the seed to change commonly held perceptions regarding Dutch colonial participation and how these perceptions are often filtered into the public debate. This socio-economic entanglement of empires may have resulted in a shared European culture of exploitation that is impossible to disentangle within public debates that remain nationally bound. Within this overarching project, a 0.75 FTE, 36-months postdoc position is available.

Dutch Entrepreneurial Exploitation of Autochthonous Resources in the Colonies of Others
Scholarship posits that European investment outside of Europe between 1500 and 1800 was mostly directed to the colonial world. In this literature, focus goes out to European investors depositing their capital in European firms, chartered companies, joint stocks or states (through public debt) that ambitioned to expand their colonial power. Social, economic and colonial Early Modern history has been thus far less interested and poorly equipped to analyze the investment that European firms were able to gear towards locally (in the colonial spaces) established business ventures, more often than not in joint partnership with non-Europeans.

This postdoctoral position aims at confronting current historiography with the absence of European-Non-European colonial investments, often in favor of European colonial states/companies, but nonetheless pivotal for local colonial economies, for the subsistence of the colonial state and ultimately for the cooperation of specific non-European economic elites in the construction, development and maintenance of colonial empires during the Early Modern period.

The interest in the cooperation between Europeans and non-Europeans in colonial exploitation is particularly important as these non-European elites transited to the 19th century as defrauded citizens of empire and it is often from within these groups that ideas of independence and framing of a national state (outside of European dominance) arose. The postdoc will be invited to develop his/her own approach and case studies. Preferred proposals contemplate:

  • Dutch firms operating locally (colonial setting) outside the sovereignty of the States General; and/or
  • Dutch firms investing in autochthonous partnerships/firms in colonial settings (including those of the States General); and/or
  • Comparative approach to Dutch and other European firms investing in foreign empires from the point of view of the colonial space.

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