Repository logo

The Commission for the Protection of the Natives and Belgian Colonialism (1908-1957)



Change log


Schalbroeck, Eva Renate M 


This thesis investigates the Commission pour la Protections des Indigènes [Commission for the Protection of the Natives, 1908-1957], a largely overlooked colonial advice and ‘watch dog’ organ in the Belgian Congo (1908-1960). It is seen as a formal institution, acting as an intermediary between the Congolese population and the Belgian colonisers; between colonial practitioners on the ground and officials; and between the Congo and Belgium. It is also considered as an informal network, bringing together authoritative colonial practitioners with extensive on the ground experience, including missionaries, administrators, and magistrates. The Commission and the Commissioners are used to analyse the conceptions, attitudes, and ideas which underpinned Belgian colonial governance and their interrelationship with policy and practice. It covers the period between 1908 and 1957 and touches upon various ‘native policy’ issues. It embeds the Commission and Belgian colonialism within the framework of twentieth century colonial governance in Central and East Africa.

This thesis firstly challenges conceptions that Belgian colonial governance was devoid of reflection and that ideas and assumptions were static and based on consensus, reflecting smooth relationships among colonials. It uncovers complex debates and relates these to the various colonial projects behind ‘the colonial project’ and their basis in conflict-ridden collaborations. This thesis secondly argues against conceptions that Belgian colonial governance was exceptional. It points to similarities and differences with British and French rule and pinpoints the distinctiveness of the Belgian approach. Finally, it undermines teleological explanations of the shortcomings of Belgian colonial governance by pointing to a vicious cycle of biases, confusion, and conflict. Fitting in with a growing body of empirical scholarship focusing on the period between the heavily studied Leopoldian rule and decolonisation, this thesis uses the Commission to shed new light on the intellectual foundations of Belgian colonial governance and re-evaluates its Belgian nature and effectiveness.





Maxwell, David


Belgian colonialism, Commission for the Protection of the Natives, Belgian Congo, Leopoldian colonialism, colonial policy


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge