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Niels Mathijssen

Niels Mathijssen


Project title

Allemans eenling. De biografie van Poncke Princen (1925-2002)

Project description

Deserting, defecting and taking up arms against former fellow soldiers, only Poncke Princen dared doing that during the war in Indonesia (1945-1950). This made him one of the most controversial people in the Netherlands after the Second World War. Princen received a lot of media attention during his lifetime, but remarkably, no in-depth research has been done into his desertion and defection. For a long time, the priority of historians and journalists was the issue of war crimes committed by Dutch soldiers during the war in Indonesia. Now there is finally clarity on this issue, there is room to explore other angels and topics about this conflict. In this biography, I reconstruct Princen’s desertion and defection, and analyse the assessment of these acts in both the Netherlands and Indonesia, in the past and present. At NIAS, I will set up my research project.

Selected publications

Over martelen denk je niet na, dat dóe je. Koloniaal daderschap deel II‘ (De Groene Amsterdammer – 50, 7 december 2022)

De mannen met de geweren. Koloniaal daderschap deel I‘ (De Groene Amsterdammer – 49, 7 december 2022)

Terrorist of vrijheidsstrijder? Profiel Sukarno‘ (De Groene Amsterdammer – 33, 12 augustus 2020)



More about myself

Niels Mathijssen is historian and freelance journalist writing mostly about colonialism, Dutch history of slavery, the war in Indonesia and colonial looted art. He writes for weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer since 2018. Before that, he regularly published for daily newspaper Trouw and online news platform De Correspondent. Het was guest curator at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and associated researcher at NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. As co-founder and editor of the award-winning history blog Over de Muur and board member of Jonge Historici, Mathijssen worked towards strengthening the position of historians in public debate. He was allowed to follow the creation of the Rijksmuseum’s slavery exhibition exclusively for one year and a half. Mathijssen wrote about the making of this project in De Groene Amsterdammer, and discussed it in De Groene Podcast.