Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Decolonising the Caribbean

Decolonising the Caribbean: Dutch Policies in a Comparative Perspective

Gert Oostindie
Inge Klinkers
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 292
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Decolonising the Caribbean
    Book Description:

    Much has been written on the post-war decolonisation in the Caribbean, but rarely from a truly comparative perspective, and seldom with serious attention to the former Dutch colonies of Surinam, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. This study bridges both gaps. In their analysis of Dutch decolonisation policies since the 1940s, the authors discuss not only political processes, but also development aid, the Dutch Caribbean exodus to the metropolis and cultural antagonisms. A balance is drawn both of the costs and benefits of independence in the Caribbean and of the outlines and results of the policies pursued in the non-sovereign Caribbean by France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0529-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 9-16)

    For over two centuries much of the Caribbean has been embroiled in heated, and initially violent, decolonisation. One may well date the beginnings of the process to the first recorded retreats of European colonisers, the conclusion of the eighteenth century peace treaties between the British and the Maroons of Jamaica, and then between the Dutch and the Maroons of Suriname – struggles for freedom which were, however, inconsequential in post-colonial history. So, Caribbean decolonisation formally began with the 1791 Haitian Revolution.With this seminal event came the dawning of a new era. Constitutional sovereignty was subsequently secured by the Dominican Republic...

  5. 1. The Comparative Context: Fragmentation of the British West Indies and the Remnants of Empire
    (pp. 17-28)

    Today the decolonisation process has taken the British back some three hundred years, to the region where they originally began their worldwide colonisation: the Union Jack still flies on many of the islands conquered by the United Kingdom during the first global wave of colonisation in the seventeenth century. These included Barbados, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Leeward Islands and Jamaica; in the second half of the eighteenth century to be followed by Dominica, St. Kitts-Nevis, Grenada, St. Vincent, Tobago and St. Lucia. Trinidad and British Guiana, seized from France and the Netherlands respectively after the Napoleonic wars, were among some...

  6. 2. The Comparative Context: The French départements d’outre-mer, Grandeur and Civilisation at a Price
    (pp. 29-41)

    French attitude toward empire fundamentally differed from that of the British, who generally liked to keep their colonies at arm’s length while gradually reducing their overseas spheres of influence by decentralising power and handing out the trump card of self-government – and eventually sovereignty – within the Commonwealth. France, in contrast, would not attempt to rid itself of its important strategic legacy. Within the French system of decolonisation the possibility of dominion status was inconceivable. The doctrine of self-determination as proffered by the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson was dismissed by a French representative as ‘C’ést simplement absurde’. Instead of...

  7. 3. The Comparative Context: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Deadlocks in American Geopolitics
    (pp. 42-56)

    During World War ii the United States started to force the European colonial powers to live up to an ideology of national self-determination and thus acted as champions of decolonisation. The Americans themselves were also faced with the problem of how to reconcile their relatively young empire with these political ideals. After all, since the beginning of the twentieth century the United States controlled a strategically situated empire itself, albeit of a more modest nature than those of its European counterparts. It soon turned out that Washington often pushed aside its ideologies on independence in favour of a more self-serving...

  8. 4. Dutch Rule in the Caribbean up until 1940: Careless Colonialism
    (pp. 57-63)

    The manner in which the Dutch decolonisation process was handled is commonly regarded as leaving a lot to be desired. The Netherlands suffered the loss of Indonesia, despite long negotiations and military actions; the intended ‘model decolonisation’ of Suriname was never achieved and the attempts to grant independence to the six islands of the Netherlands Antilles as a whole were in vain. Now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Kingdom of the Netherlands still includes two Caribbean countries, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba: islands that still feature regularly, and unfortunately, to a large extent, in a negative context...

  9. 5. The Dismantling of the Dutch Empire, 1940-1954
    (pp. 64-88)

    World War ii signified a definitive breach in Dutch colonial history. A virtually powerless government in exile stood before the almost impossible task of not only monitoring the developments in the occupied Netherlands from London, but also using what little influence that remained to give them some form of guidance. These circumstances also impeded the overseas affairs. The Japanese occupation of Indonesia in 1942 was a second heavy blow. Only in Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles did Dutch rule continue. The Ministry of Colonial Affairs was now sending its directives from London to Paramaribo and Willemstad. In actual practice, however,...

  10. 6. The Failed Attempt at Model Decolonisation, 1954-1975
    (pp. 89-117)

    At the time of the promulgation of the Charter, the Netherlands was a society striving to recover from the ravages of war and the loss of Indonesia, and from the consequent decline in its international status.¹ Politics were dominated by the traditional Christian democratic, social democratic and conservative liberal parties. From 1958 the country was ruled by centre-right coalitions, while most of the major cities were ruled by centre-left coalitions. This in reality would make little difference: politics was generally handled by elites who cooperated in accord with one another, while their rank and file were still expected to stick...

  11. 7. The Perpetuation of the Transatlantic Kingdom since 1975
    (pp. 118-152)

    Mid-term the den Uyl administration, in retrospect often characterised as ‘the most progressive Dutch cabinet ever’, succeeded in transferring sovereignty to Suriname.¹ Closing the book on the Antilles was also a target, but in the later stages of this period Caribbean affairs were no longer a priority in The Hague. After its premature fall in 1977, the den Uyl cabinet left a legacy of political polarisation rarely seen in Dutch history. Despite a clear left-wing victory in the elections, a centre-right coalition won the day and, in fact, up until 1989 the Netherlands was almost continuously run by coalitions of...

  12. 8. Illusions and Benefits of ‘Reciprocal Assistance’: Development Aid
    (pp. 153-176)

    An analysis of trends in per capita gdp for all Caribbean countries in the last four decades of the twentieth century reveals a clear picture with perhaps alarming implications for the debate on the costs of independence in the region (table 1).¹ At the bottom of the historical table composed by a research group headed by Bulmer-Thomas we find Haiti, whose inhabitants are actually worse off materially today than they were in 1960.² The other early sovereign states, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, continue to rank among the poorer Caribbean nations as well. Together the three make up some two-thirds...

  13. 9. A Caribbean Exodus
    (pp. 177-200)

    Migration has characterised Caribbean history and is still central to the lives and awareness of its inhabitants today.¹ European immigration, the African slave trade and the recruitment of Asian indentured labour accounted for the populating of the region after the indigenous Amerindian inhabitants had been all but annihilated in the wake of theconquista. Upon the abolition of slavery in the mid-nineteenth century, labour migration within the Caribbean and to Central America gained momentum, with Barbadians moving to British Guiana since the 1860s, Jamaicans building the Panama canal at the turn of the century, islanders from all over the Caribbean...

  14. 10. Cultural Exchange, Proximity and Distance
    (pp. 201-214)

    Textbook introductions and, to a larger extent, tourist brochures tend to divide the Caribbean linguistically; the Spanish, British, French and Dutch Caribbean being the four linguistic divisions.¹ Of course, the linguistic criterion, with its neo-colonial overtones, is just as helpful in categorising the Caribbean as it is misleading in respect of politics or history. After all, inherent in this is the vague suggestion of continuing subordination, while in fact most of the former colonies have long since seceded from the erstwhile metropolis. One may also argue that choosing the metropolitan language as the defining characteristic understates the vital importance of...

  15. 11. Epilogue
    (pp. 215-233)

    At the outbreak of World War ii the days of classic colonialism in the Caribbean had long since passed. By then, the classic decolonisation process had also come to an end. Around 1800 the slaves in the French colony of Saint-Domingue had not only successfully gained their liberty from the local planters, but they had also become independent from the distant mother country. A unique history: Haiti was the second nation, after the United States, to break with its metropolis; the first state not governed by white Europeans or their descendants; the first state to abolish slavery. Around 1900 Cuba...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 234-269)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 270-283)
  18. Index of Names
    (pp. 284-286)
  19. Index of Geographical Names
    (pp. 287-289)
  20. Index of Organisations and Political Parties
    (pp. 290-291)