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War & Peace: Europe’s Colonial Legacies
War & Peace: Europe’s Colonial Legacies

War & Peace: Europe’s Colonial Legacies

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Hugh Pope discuss with cultural historian and author David van Reybrouck his new book on the legacy of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia and his parallel work on improving the functioning of democracy.

S2 Episode 14: Europe’s Colonial Legacies

Indonesia was the first country to proclaim its independence after the Second World War, setting in motion a significant chapter of post-colonial history by doing so. In his latest book, Revolusi, Belgian cultural historian and prolific author David van Reybrouck examines the Dutch East Indies’ past and places it in a global context. A five-year project spanning over 200 interviews with living eyewitnesses, he tells Olga and Hugh why he undertook it, and how (spoiler alert: even the dating app Tinder helped him out).

In both his new book and his previous volume on Belgian colonial history, Congo: The Epic History of a People, David says his hybrid read-and-interview research technique allows him to challenge political myopia in former colonising countries and set the stage for a fuller reckoning of the way Europe has hidden the darkest pages of its colonial history.

They also discuss what David calls a new kind of evangelisation, in the form of exporting the Western model of elections-based democracy, and his case for a lottery-based system. Drawing on his book Against Elections and innovations already taking place in Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands, he explains what makes elections another way of empowering elites, why exporting the Western version of the ballot box elsewhere is wrong, and how an alternative model that returns policymaking to citizens might be a solution. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Contributors

Program Director, Europe and Central Asia
OlyaOliker
Director of Communications & Outreach
Hugh_Pope
David van Reybrouck
Cultural historian and author