Onderzoekt en verzamelt de geschiedenis van werk, werkenden en arbeidsverhoudingen wereldwijd

Labour Camps

Four Centuries of Labour Camps. War, Rehabilitation, Ethnicity

This project aims to bring about the first integrated, worldwide history of labour camps. Diachronic and comparative research will be used to trace the socio-political, ideological and economic conditions that led to the emergence of labour camps and remain conducive to their existence. All too often, labour camps, both within scholarship and in public perceptions, are associated mainly with the Nazi Lagers and Soviet gulags. Overcoming the resulting narrowed vision is one of the objectives of this project. To this end, we place labour camps in the context of the global history of oppression and exploitation in the early modern and modern world.

We define labour camps in terms of the simultaneous combination of forced labour and internment. Hence, the overall question of this project is why and under which particular socio-political, ideological and economic conditions have forced labour and internment appeared together over the past four centuries?

We address three aspects in particular: the conditions that precede, accompany and follow military conflicts; the concept and practice of “rehabilitation”; the discourse and practices around ethnicity, in both colonial and non-colonial settings. These are investigated in the context of specific sites (individual camps, cities or regions) within four settings: penal transportation to and within the Netherlands Indies; early modern and modern prison workhouses in Hamburg; incarceration and internment in Italy and the Italian colonies; Tsarist Katorga and Soviet Gulags in Western Siberia.

Despite its obvious historical significance and social impact, this field has yet to be systematically explored. Most scholars studying crime and punishment have investigated specific institutions in isolation from one another and from a short-term perspective. Historians of labour or migration as well as practitioners of global history have addressed issues such as the relationship between free and unfree labour and the role of colonialism in world history, but in all these studies references to labour camps are scarce, if present at all. By contrast, this project situates the history of labour camps firmly within the global history of the past four hundred years.

This project has been initiated by the IISH and the Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (NIOD), as part of their cooperative effort.
1 September 2013 to 31 August 2018
Duration: 5 years

Research Structure

Sub-project 1:
“Colonial Enlightenment and Punishment in the Netherlands Indies: From chain gang to Upper Digul 1750-1942”

Researcher: dr. Klaas Stutje (postdoc IISG)
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ulbe Bosma (IISH)
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Peter Romijn (NIOD)
Type of recruitment: Post-doc 0.75 fte
Duration: 4 years

Sub-project 2:
“Internment, Work, Poverty and Crime, in Hamburg, 1618-1969”

Researcher: dr. Ralf Futselaar (postdoc NIOD)
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Pieter Spierenburg (EUR)
Co-Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Klaus Weinhauer (Bielefeld University)
Type of recruitment: Post-doc 1.0 fte

Duration: 3 years
Sub-project 3:
“Rehabilitation, War and Colonization in Italy and Its Colonies, 1861-1945”

Researcher: dr. Francesca di Pasquale (postdoc NIOD)
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Pieter Spierenburg (EUR)
Co-Supervisor: Dr. Christian G. De Vito (IISH)
Type of recruitment: Post-doc 1.0 fte
Duration: 3 years

Sub-project 4:
“Tsarist Katorga and Soviet Gulag in Western Siberia. War, Colonization and the Making of the ‘Socialist Man’, 19th-20th Centuries”

Researcher: Zhanna Popova (PHD-student IISG)
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Marcel van der Linden (IISH)
Co-supervisor: Dr. Nancy Adler (NIOD)
Type of recruitment: PhD 0.8 fte
Duration: 4 years