Canon van Nederland: can history do consensus?

A commission of historians presented the new 'Canon van Nederland' on Monday. The canon summarises Dutch history focusing on 50 historical figures and events and forms the basis for history lessons in schools. The updated canon features more female figures and pays more attention to black resistance against colonialism.

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NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

A reflection of the past and the present

The Canon reveals a lot about the present, NRC Handelsblad explains:

“The commission concluded that the 'dark chapters' were already illuminated in the original Canon, but that they needed to be told by more diverse voices and from more different perspectives. So the enriched Canon is now a reflection of what is happening in society - in other words, it is exactly what an interpretation of history always is. This means the Canon is not so much a product of new scientific findings as a product of changing social values. This is not relativism - adopting a different perspective does not mean that historical facts are undermined.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Seeking a historical balance

The Canon once again seeks to achieve a sense of balance, De Volkskrant comments approvingly:

“Since its creation in 2006, the Canon has been a catalyst for debates about the past and what the Dutch should know about it. ... The updated version shows that even history is not written in stone, and that today's insights can lead to a new evaluation of forgotten protagonists. The initial fears that the Canon would amount to a historical cleansing operation were not realised in 2006 or 2020. Heroes stand side by side with villains. … Dark and light chapters keep each other in balance.”