About the Project
Poncke Princen (1925-2002) is one of the most controversial figures in the Netherlands after the Second World War. At the age of 22, in 1948, Princen deserted the Dutch army, in the midst of the violent colonial war in Indonesia. He defected and took up arms against his former fellow soldiers, and was the only one to do so in this history of war. He later became a human rights activist, living the largest part of his life in Indonesia.
Princen received much media attention during his lifetime, mostly negative. But remarkably, there has been no in-depth research into his desertion and defection. With this journalistic biography, Mathijssen wants to change that. Who was Poncke Princen, and how can his extraordinary actions be explained? Mathijssen will not only reconstruct Princen’s desertion and defection, but also analyse the assessment of these acts in both the Netherlands and Indonesia, in the past and present.
About Niels Mathijssen
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. 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.
About the Fellowship
The Journalist-in-Residence Fellowship is for journalists with a keen interest in scholarly research who need an extended period of time to focus on a longer piece of journalistic work. Previous fellows include Saar Slegers, Anne-Lot Hoek, Jaap Tielbeke and Dirk van Delft. Currently, NRC-journalist Mark Lievisse Adriaanse is at NIAS to write a book on the democratic crisis in contemporary liberal democracies. The programme is a collaboration between NIAS and the Fonds Bijzondere Journalistieke Projecten.