De Lumumba-Commissie. Geschiedschrijving en collectieve herinnering

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L. de Vos, E. Gerard, J. Gérard-Libois, Ph. Raxhon, Lumumba. De complotten? De moord (Leuven 2004)The Lumumba Commission. Historiography and collective memory.Belgium has no political tradition with regard to setting up parliamentary inquiries into aspects of its national history. Its political culture and national consensus is often perceived as too fragile to allow an open debate on painful aspects of its past. This has not only been the case with regard to Belgium’s role during the Second World War, but also for its politics in colonial Africa. Notwithstanding the ongoing controversies over the troublesome decolonisation of the Belgian Congo, it has taken four decades for the Belgian political establishment to allow a thorough reinvestigation of this episode, which has placed a heavy strain on relations between the former motherland and its colony for such a long time. The establishment in 2000 of a special commission of inquiry to investigate the murder in 1961 of Patrice Lumumba, the former Congolese political leader, was largely made possible after the transformation of the landscape of political parties in Belgium in the late 1990s. Both the establishment and proceedings of a special parliamentary inquiry reflected the profound political and ideological schisms about Belgium’s role in the decolonization of the Congo. The commission showed that writing history is closely intertwined with a political agenda. For historians, who were involved in the commission of inquiry, it was necessary to achieve a balance between academic professionalism and the moral responsibility of revealing a painful past. Historical commissions of inquiry therefore provide a good example of the public role that historians play in a changing political context. This contribution establishes both the political and moral aspects of writing history as well as their theoretical and methodological assumptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-373
Number of pages17
JournalBijdragen en Mededelingen Betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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