D H
Sep 24 · Last update 20 days ago.

Which country was the worst colonial power?

Many of the world’s biggest diplomatic problems, as well as many current social and economic hurdles, can be traced back to European colonialism following the ‘Age of Discovery’. Indeed many of the world’s countries can trace their modern borders to this period of European colonialism, starting with the capture of Ceuta by the Portuguese in 1415, and arguably ending after the Second World War. Colonies have existed for much of human history, however this period of European expansion gave rise to massive colonial empires, where most of the world was divided up between European powers; often giving rise to exploitation, war, famine, genocide. Which powers were most cruel, destructive and repressive in their plundering of colonised territories? And which countries were least accommodating and supporting in the transition to independence of their former colonies?
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The Dutch
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Belgium
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The Dutch

Fairly little evidence has survived of the brutal history of Dutch colonialism of the Dutch East Indies, modern Indonesia, over shadowed by the brutal concurrent occupations of Germany and Japan, the Dutch historians have often turned a blind eye to their colonial past. However historians are aware of the 1609–21 Banda Massacre in which 90% of the Banda Islander were killed, enslaved or deported in a ruthless repression campaign, and similar brutal repressions of uprisings like the Diponegoro War from 1825-30 in which around 200,000 died - over 99% indigenous people. Dutch colonialism in Indonesia was so horrible that when the Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies in March 1942 they were welcomed as liberators, in stark contrast to Japanese invasions elsewhere in Asia.

Following Japanese surrender and the end of the Second World War the Dutch even attempted to regain control of the region, despite an Indonesian declaration of independence. What followed was a 4 year diplomatic and military struggle which cost the lives of 6,000 Dutch soldiers and at least 150,000 Indonesians, these military campaigns were fraught with some of the worst Dutch military atrocities on record. For example a single battalion under Captain Raymond Westerling killed at least 4,000 Indonesians in south Celebes over a two-month period in 1946. Even notable and highly decorated Dutch veterans of the war have spoken out about this tragedy, comparing the massacres of Indonesians by the Dutch to notorious mass murders such as the My Lai incident of the the Vietnam War.

thejakartapost.com/academia/2018/08/23/commentary-how-bad-how-cruel-were-dutch-to-us.html independent.co.uk/news/world/colonial-atrocities-explode-myth-of-dutch-tolerance-1439153.html nbcnewyork.com/news/national-international/at-un-nations-urge-overdue-reckoning-with-colonial-crimes/2640638

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D H
Oct 10
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DH edited this paragraph
https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2018/08/23/commentary-how-bad-how-cruel-were-dutch-to-us.html https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/colonial-atrocities-explode-myth-of-dutch-tolerance-1439153.html https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/national-international/at-un-nations-urge-overdue-reckoning-with-colonial-crimes/2640638/

Belgium

Although Belgium’s colonial empire was comparatively small it was also one of the most brutal of the period, with numerous crimes against humanity and possibly genocide taking place under the rule of Belgian King Leopold II and the Belgian government. Belgium controlled two major colonies and some minor territories; the largest was the Belgian Congo, first owned privately by King Leopold II as Congo Free State, where a ruthless and violent regime of economic extraction was set up. Some of these practices ended when Belgian government annexed the state in 1908, however due to famine and disease the Congo continued to suffer a plummeting birth rate and a sharp decline in population, estimates range from 1-15 million deaths during this colonial period.

Under the Congo Free State rubber plantation companies were allowed to do as they wished to maximise profits, which resulted in forced labour and the establishment of a native paramilitary army, the ‘Force Publique’, who shot, removed hands, and destroyed entire villages of those who refused to work. Pictures of Congolese with missing hands created such disgust internationally the Belgian government relinquished control from the king, establishing Belgian Congo in 1908, and ended many of the abuses. However continued mis-governance led to the modern state of the Democratic Republic of the Congo been widely seen as a failed state, and one of the most dangerous countries on earth, demonstrating the brutal legacy of Belgian colonialism. Belgium therefore created the most unforgiving colonial empire of history.

independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/belgium-s-genocidal-colonial-legacy-haunts-country-s-future-a7984191.html newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/an-unsettling-visit-to-kongo eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/74340/2/roesAW2.pdf theguardian.com/world/video/2020/jun/19/is-this-the-end-for-colonial-era-statues-racism-slavery-black-lives-matter-video

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D H
Oct 3
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DH edited this paragraph
Under the Congo Free State rubber plantation companies were allowed to do as they wished to maximise profits, which resulted in forced labour and the establishment of a native paramilitary army, the ‘Force Publique’, who shot, removed hands, and destroyed entire villages of those who refused to work. Pictures of Congolese with missing hands created such disgust internationally the Belgian government relinquished control from the king, establishing Belgian Congo in 1908, and ended many of the abuses. However continued mis-governance led to the modern state of the Democratic Republic of the Congo been widely seen as a failed state, and one of the most dangerous countries on earth, demonstrating the brutal legacy of Belgian colonialism. Belgium therefore created the most unforgiving colonial empire of history.
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