South and Southeast Asia

Because the NEHA collected material not just about the Netherlands but also its colonies, some documentation on the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) was present almost from the outset. The IISH later added the literary legacy of anti-colonialism, which appeared mainly in socialist and communist circles. In the 1990s the activities were extended to the South Asian subcontinent, which for many reasons is of interest to modern global labour history, both intrinsically and because of its comparative significance. In the vast country of India, the IISH does less actual collecting than supporting collection efforts by others. History is well-established as a discipline there, and interest in the history of labour and labour relations is substantial. The similarities and differences between this former British colony and the former Dutch colony in the Southeast merit study as well.

Collection activities were soon concentrated on some of the many social movements formed in South and Southeast Asia in recent decades. Written sources are less important there than in the European tradition, and more attention needs to be paid to oral history. In Indonesia the fall of Suharto in 1998 marked a turning point. In addition, the Institute evolved into a centre for documentation of the contemporary history of Burma and human rights violations by the military dictatorship. In 2002, partially to facilitate collection of Burmese materials, a desk opened in Bangkok, serving the entire region as well and assisted by correspondents in Islamabad and Dhaka. At the time, it was not anticipated that Thailand would become a laboratory of modern social movements.