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European Mercenaries in the Dutch Empire. A Connected History of Continental Europe and Colonial Indonesia, c. 1800—1900

Project description

A closer look at the Dutch Colonial Army

Throughout history, the Netherlands depended on non-European resources and manpower to build and run their far-flung island empire in Southeast Asia. Non-Dutch soldiers comprised nearly half of the Europeans employed by the Dutch Colonial Army in the 19th and 20th centuries. The EU-funded EuMeDE project will study how the Dutch managed to recruit some 70 000 European foreigners into their colonial army. It will shed light on how these men helped build the Dutch Empire. Studying biographies of 175 000 European soldiers and mercenaries in the Dutch Colonial Army, the project will uncover ‘forgotten’ details about the historical connections between Indonesia (a Dutch colony until 1945) and vast parts of western and central Europe.


Being one of the smallest 19th century European powers, however with one of the largest overseas empires, the Netherlands continuously depended on non-European services, resources and man-power to build and run their far-flung island empire in Southeast Asia. Unsurprisingly, around 40% of the European soldiers employed by the Dutch Colonial Army between 1816 and c. 1914 were non-Dutch, hailing mostly from Belgium, Germany, France, and Switzerland. How did the Dutch manage to recruit ca. 70.000 European foreigners into their colonial army? And how did these men not only help build the Dutch Empire, but through their imperial careers also affect the histories of those European regions they came from? Using a database with biographic information on all 175.000 European soldiers and mercenaries in the Dutch Colonial Army, this project will be the first to tell the 'forgotten' story of deep historical connections between Indonesia, which today is the largest Muslim-majority and the overall third largest democracy in the World, and vast parts of Western- and Central Europe. Uncovering this largely unknown connected history will impact European Global History, Dutch Colonial History and the national histories of the mentioned countries. Carrying out this project under the supervision of Prof. Roland Wenzlhuemer at the Munich Centre for Global History will deepen my conceptual understanding of Global History, widen my methodological skill set, and improve my leadership skills. This will significantly increase my chances of getting a tenured position for European and Global History.


Net EU contribution
€ 162 806,40
80539 Muenchen

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Bayern Oberbayern München, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 162 806,40