Children as Objects and Agents of Change. Strategies of (post)colonial development, 1880 - 2020


Prof. Geertje Mak

Time frame

December 2018 - May 2022

Project description

This project aims at collaboration between scholars from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany to investigate how (post)colonial ‘civilizing’ and ‘development’ projects engaged children as their main objects and agents of change. Most of the institutions involved in colonial practices pertaining to children were missionary organizations, who developed practices which often were continued within postcolonial humanitarian and human rights projects.
The project

  • makes these deeply interfering strategies in continental European colonies the subject of a more comprehensive and systematic historical analysis;
  • links these to postcolonial ‘development’ policies, and develops research proposals to investigate possible (post)colonial continuities the role of children in humanitarian and civil rights projects
  • engages missionary institutions and other stakeholders involved in digitizing their archives pertaining to interferences with children
  • creates a starting point to bridge the colonial/postcolonial ‘heritage gap’ by digitally sharing research and archival sources on this issue globally.


postcolonial studies, postcolonial history, children, humanitarian aid, colonial past