Annual of colonial archives
This annual aims to give an overview of the different methods in which colonial
archives are the subject of research. It was initially the intention to include a
collection of essays on colonial archives from both 'the East' and 'the West'.
Within the time available to us, this turned out to be too ambitious and we
therefore opted to limit the project to South-East Asia with Indonesia, Malaysia
and Singapore in the forefront.
We have tried to open the black box of archives in general and find that the
colonial archives in particular are still reserved for scholars and trained and
experienced archivists. Some quite interesting theoretical views have been
presented to the research community recently and these views are waiting
to be tested by research in the colonial archives. The archive has to become a
subject of research instead of only a source of information for historiography.
Archives are not static, they are always changing as they are created and moulded
incessantly by actors like governments, organisations, commercial enterprises,
families and individuals. This process is then succeeded by archivists and other
custodians' recreations and reconstructions. Archives are often used as an
instrument of power. This seems to be especially the case with colonial archives.
By archiving, the coloniser conquered the territory and hoped to keep in control.
In conclusion, there is the view of reading 'along the archival grain' developed
by Ann Laura Stoler in her book of the same name. Most scholars are used to
reading against the grain; Stoler advocates to search for hidden thoughts she calls
'romances' behind the text of the document.
Michael Karabinos has written a contribution about the role played by colonial
archives in a post-colonial world. Colonisers gathered information as much as
possible about the country they had occupied, conquered or drawn within their
sphere of influence and put much of it in their archives. When these colonies
acquired independence, these archives often, but not always, remained behind.
The documents tell about the history of the colony, but seen through the
spectacles of a former, white ruling class having certain views about 'the natives'
and their strange or even 'backward' society. Historians have to be aware that
when using these documents, they are in danger of getting a wrong image of the
past. It often occurs, however, that other sources about the history of the new
nation are extremely scarce, so the researcher has no choice. Karabinos also pays
attention to the relationship between archives and collective memory. These do
not always overlap.
CHARLES JEURGENS AND TON KAPPELHOF COLONIAL ARCHIVES
secretariat more accessible. In this context, they wrote Inventaris van het archief van de algemene secretarie
(1816) 1819-1942) waarin tevens opgenomen het Archief van de Commissarissen-Generaal1816-1819,
1826-1830, 1832-1834 en het Archief van de Raad van Nederlands-Indie, 1821-1930 (Jakarta 1990).
In 1999, the Instituut voor Nederlandse Geschiedenis published Guide to the archives on relations between
the Netherlands and Indonesia 1945-1963 by P.J. Drooglever, M.J.B. Schouten and Lohanda, which included a
chapter called 'Archives in the Republic of Indonesia on relations with the Netherlands 1945-1963'.
This concerns the archives which are preserved in the ANRI. In 2009, Nationaal Archief published
De Koloniale Staat (1854-1942). Gids voor het archief van het Ministerie van Koloniën. De Indonesische archipel
(Den Haag 2009) written by Francien van Anrooij. This guide gives a description of a part of the archives
of the Ministry.
45 Colonial archives, either intact or their remnants, have been found on various visits to government institu
tions and archival depositories in Jakarta, Jogjakarta, Solo, Bandung, Makassar/Ujung Pandang, Semarang,
Medan, Soerabaya and Padang.