Matthias van Rossum
Matthias van Rossum

Matthias van Rossum appointed professor by special appointment Global Histories of Labour and Colonialism

Radboud University and the International Institute of Social History (IISH) are jointly establishing the Special Chair in Global Histories of Labour and Colonialism, to be filled by Matthias van Rossum from 1 February 2024.

The chair focuses on the history of slavery, forced labour and resistance in relation to colonial expansion. The chair aims to gain new insights into the Dutch and European colonial past by studying sources and perspectives from below.

Matthias van Rossum explains: 'Over the past five centuries, histories of colonialism and forced labour have profoundly shaped the world as we know it. It is vital to better understand their enormous impact, both socially and scientifically. This requires new perspectives, but also new research that focuses on underexposed aspects and actors of this history, both in the (former) colonised territories and in the Netherlands. From resistance by enslaved people in Indonesia to the consequences of colonial profiteering in the Netherlands and European hinterlands.'

As professor by special appointment, Matthias van Rossum will contribute to the Department of Economic, Social and Demographic History at Radboud University. He is attached to the IISH in Amsterdam as a senior researcher. The IISH researches the history of labour and inequality from a global perspective. The research and teaching of Radboud University's ESDG department focuses on the lives of ordinary people through the history of family and family, migration and colonialism.

'I hope to be able to contribute with my research and projects to the valuable research and teaching on slavery and colonialism, among others, that is being carried out at Radboud University. This affiliation offers the opportunity to strengthen the cross-links between the work done in Amsterdam and Nijmegen.'

Research and society

In recent years, Matthias van Rossum has done a lot of research on colonial history and in particular the still underexposed Asian slavery past. From his research, he has contributed in various ways to social questions concerning the colonial and slavery past. Among other things, he advised the Rijksmuseum for the exhibition on Slavery (2021) and the Council for Culture in advising on the slavery museum and colonial archives. Last year, Van Rossum was one of the authors of the study State and Slavery on the Dutch colonial slavery past, which will be followed up with a knowledge agenda this spring. He previously contributed to the studies of the slavery past of Amsterdam and Utrecht.

The research agenda of the chair is strengthened by a number of projects led by Matthias van Rossum. For instance, the NWO project Resisting Enslavement and the upcoming ERC Consolidator project Voices of Resistance investigate forms of resistance, the voices and perspectives of enslaved people in the Indian Ocean, Indonesian archipelago and Atlantic world. This contributes to the Exploring Slave Trade in Asia project, which aims to reconstruct the slave trade in Asia using an international database. The infrastructure project GLOBALISE enables new ways of research for the digitised VOC archives. Together, these projects seek to understand the colonial and slavery past in new ways.