James Kennedy: “A Many-Voiced Dutch History”

University College Utrecht Dean James Kennedy chaired the commission in charge of revising the ‘Canon of Dutch History’. He presented the new Canon on Monday 22 June.

The ‘Canon of Dutch History’ comprises 50 decisive events in Dutch history and is widely used at schools and in the media. Compared to the original version, established by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports in 2006, the new Canon pays more attention to topics such as Dutch colonial history and women’s emancipation.

A notable newcomer in the light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement is the Surinamese anti-colonial activist and writer Anton de Kom. His book Wij slaven van Suriname ("We slaves of Surinam") from 1934 is a protest against racism and colonialism in the country.

It was our intention to make the many-voiced Dutch history heard, including the voices of people who were not in positions of power.

Also, the more recent history of so-called immigrant “guest workers” from the 1960s onwards is prominently included in the Canon, as well as the role of illuminate women such as the politician Marga Klompé, whose career was invested in designing the Dutch welfare society.

“This is no reinvention of Dutch history”, says James Kennedy in an interview with the Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad. “It was our intention to make the many-voiced Dutch history heard, including the voices of people who were not in positions of power.”

The revised Canon of Dutch History.