Legacies of an imperial past in a small nation: Patterns of postcolonialism in Belgium

Georgi Verbeeck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


oblivion and recognition are equally important components in the public use of history. In dealing with their contentious past, many countries have gone through a cycle of denial, repression, recognition, debate and ways of finding a new consensus. Both forgetting and remembering played a key role in european politics of history after the second world war and since the end of communism. Similar patterns can be identified after colonialism came to an end. Postcolonial societies are now forced to rethink and rewrite their colonial past. In comparison with its neighbouring countries, belgium has attracted relatively less attention in the international scholarship on the history of colonialism and postcolonialism. Belgium was a ‘latecomer’, both as former colonial empire and in opening a public and scholarly debate on this episode. The last turn of the century marked the beginning of a shift in perceptions of belgium's colonial past. This paper addresses three cases, which exemplify the transformation from a culture of denial and neglect to a more critical narrative on the colonial era: the historiographical debate on colonialism and genocide, the lumumba commission and the renewal of the royal museum for central africa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-306
JournalEuropean Politics and Society
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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