Investigating Historical Abuses: An Applied History Perspective on Intercountry Adoption in the Netherlands, 1950s–Present

Yannick Balk, Georg Frerks, Beatrice de Graaf


This article investigates the phenomenon and practice of intercountry adoption from a historical perspective by using applied history methods. In particular, the authors employed the method of historicizing current concerns, such as the notion of abuses, and contextualizing them in history. With these methods, the authors contributed to the Dutch governmental assessment and evaluation of intercountry adoption, indicating that our findings (as laid down in the official report) need to be translated into revised governmental policies. In this paper, we describe how we applied our historicizing methods to intercountry adoption abuses by providing a narrative and genealogy of the topic.

They also discuss the pitfalls and merits of conducting historical research into practices that are now considered immoral or unjust, but were long standard practice after intercountry adoption started in the Netherlands. In this way, the authors also contribute to the ongoing discussion on doing historical research in highly politicized contexts, where the danger of contributing to the ‘blame game’ often lies in wait.