Saturday 13 August 2022

Out go the canals, in comes Anton de Kom in new list of Dutch history icons

A revised selection of 50 key events and people in Dutch history aims to provide a more balanced overview of what has made the Netherlands tick, but should be reviewed every 10 years, according to the list’s compilers.

The first ‘canon’ was drawn up in 2006 at the behest of the government, and aimed show what ‘everyone should know about Dutch history and culture’. But it was criticized for a lack of balance, particularly with reference to the Dutch Caribbean and colonialism, and for being too focused on the big four Dutch cities.

Out in the new list are king Floris V, former prime minister Willem Drees and the Amsterdam canal ring. In come Surinamese writer and independence campaigner Anton de Kom, immigrant workers and ‘that Oranje feeling’.

‘Our aim was not to scrap items but to see what should be included,’ said historian James Kennedy, who chaired the committee which revised the Canon of the The Netherlands. ‘It is an educational tool which can help teachers to capture pupils’ imaginations. We are not claiming to have summarised history, or established a Dutch identity.’

‘We did not add anyone purely on the basis of them being female or their background,’ Kennedy said. ‘Marga Klompé introduced the concept of social security benefits, and we considered that to be more typical of the Dutch welfare state than Drees’ pensions.’

The committee said it hoped the canon will be revised every 10 years, to take rapidly evolving social developments into account.

‘History does not change but the way we look at history does,’ said education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven at the report’s presentation. ‘It is a coincidence that this list appears at the very moment we are in the middle of a conversation about our past.’

Van Engelshoven commissioned the revised list last year and urged the compilers not to avoid the ‘shadow side’ of Dutch history.

Inburgering with 10 key events in Dutch history

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