Military Violence and its (Dis)Contents in Colonial Congo: Sharing the Records, Writing the History

Project Details


Building on the promising results of the first phase of the pilot project DIGICOLJUST-1 [see below], the project DIGICOLJUST-2 "Military Violence and its (Dis)Contents in Colonial Congo:Sharing the Records, Writing the History'' aims at renewing the archival, scientific and societal knowledge of the history of military crimes and of their repression in the Congo Free State (1885-1908) and in the Belgian Congo (1908-1960). This project responds to political andhistoriographical debates on the contested heritage of Belgian colonial archives and on the violent history of Belgian imperialism. Pursuing the uncovering of a long-considered lost unique collection of courts records encompassing 70 years of testimonies of colonial military crimes, DIGICOLJUST-2 is designed to allow for the development of state-of-the-art solutions, for collaboration with Congolese archivists to further share this heritage, and for the production ofinnovative historical research. It will offer new insights on the deployment, routinisation and escalation of armed violence in colonial Central Africa, as well on the complex relationship of Belgian colonial (military) authorities to impunity and soldierly misconduct. DIGICOLJUST-2’s ambitions cannot be understood without taking into consideration the results produced by the initial phase of the pilot project DIGICOLJUST-1. In less than 24 months, the project's team has been able to map the archival materials, to retrace their history, to conceive aformat of online access, both user-friendly and scientifically sound, for the digitization of the pilot program (1,147 case files/27,650 scanned pages from the military court of Léopoldville (1891-1956), i.e. approximately 20% of the collection). Furthermore, it has built an effectivepartnership with the INACO in DRC through on-site dialogues led both in Kinshasa and in Brussels. In spite of the impediments caused by the Covid-19 (which has delayed the start of our project, still ongoing until the end of 2022) and by the time-consuming decontamination and transfer of the 5,200 case files from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to SAB, the main objectives ofthe project will be met by the end of 2022 (inventorization of 21 court record groups with professional finding aids; digitization and online publication of the pilot program (1,147 case files from the military court of Léopoldville); organisation of a research seminar for 90 students fromthe ULB & VUB; submission of 2 scientific articles respectively to History in Africa and to Sources. Matériaux et terrains en études africaines; development of a tool kit for secondary school teachers to work with the source collection in the classroom). In short, the first phase of the project has confirmed the crucial interest of the collection but only allowed for superficial analysis.
Short title or EU acronymDIGICOLJUST-2
Effective start/end date1/02/231/05/27


  • Colonial Congo

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • African history


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