Scandal, corruption, exploitation and abuse of power are related to the history of colonialism and empire-building of France, Great-Britain and the Netherlands. Lively debates on corruption in the colonies can be found throughout European history. In spite of some case-studies and general essays on corruption and imperialism, no comparative analysis exists of colonial corruption. A comparison between France, Great-Britain and the Netherlands seems interesting as their colonial strategies of around 1900 were legitimized with the moral claim that the colonizers would bring modernity and progress to the colony, in particular it was framed as an effort to eliminate all kinds of malpractices, misuses of power and immoral behaviour, or corruption broadly understood. But modernization efforts had their own fallacies and paradoxes. An analysis of debates on colonial corruption can provide new insights on the ‘politics of difference’ and the problematic nature of bringing modernity to the colony. An analysis of debates on colonial corruption could also help to better understand the construction of modern legacies and stereotypes that are still dominant in former colonial empires that portray serious corruption as something of ‘traditional’, ‘southern’ or ‘exotic’ cultures.
Ronald Kroeze is assistant professor of History at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He teaches courses on the history of democracy, corruption, modern Europe and political philosophy and the use of history by business and politics. His research focuses on the history of governance, political corruption and anticorruption as well as on the history of management and leadership in politics and business in the Netherlands and Europe in the modern era. On his research he has published in books and in peer reviewed international journals such as the Journal for Modern European History, BMGN-Low Countries Historical Review, Management & Organizational History and Business History. As a senior researcher at the University of Amsterdam between 2014 and 2017, Kroeze was involved in an EU-funded FP7 project on the history of anticorruption (www.anticorrp). The results of this research have been published in Ronald Kroeze, André Vitoria and Guy Geltner (eds.), A History of Anticorruption. From Antiquity up to the Modern Era (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018).
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