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Anton de Kom and the Formative Phase of Surinamese Decolonization

Author(s): Peter Meel

Journal: New West Indian Guide
ISSN 1382-2373

Volume: 83;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 249;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: Suriname | Netherlands | decolonization | political history | social history | race relations | nationalism | intellectuals

Wij slaven van Suriname (We slaves of Suriname) by Anton de Kom (1898-1945) stands out as one of the classics of Surinamese historiography and one of the most debated books among contemporary scholars involved in Surinamese studies. In this article I argue that Wij slaven van Suriname marks a new stage in Surinamese history writing and a novel way of dealing with the Surinamese past. To determine the characteristics of the book and its contribution to Caribbean historiography I juxtapose Wij slaven van Suriname with two other groundbreaking works in Caribbean political thought: Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams (1911-81) and The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James (1901-89). The three works display many similarities, but also important differences. In my opinion De Kom’s hitherto surprisingly weak Caribbean profile is not justified given that his work represents the formative phase of Surinamese decolonization. It therefore deserves a prominent place in twentieth-century Caribbean history writing.
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