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Online exhibition - Admired and Despised: life and work of Snouck Hurgronje

Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje (1857-1936) is known as an Islamologist, author of the book Mecca, administrator in the Dutch East Indies for the Dutch government and professor in Leiden. Wim van den Doel published a biography of Snouck Hurgronje in 2021. Recently, the translation of the biography in Bahasa Indonesia was released for the Indonesian public. Van den Doel created an online exhibition to mark the occasion, with a focus on Snouck's time in the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia.

Military camp with Snouck and Van Heutsz

Snouck Hurgronje in the Dutch East Indies

Snouck Hurgronje was a minister's son who studied Islam in Leiden. He obtained his doctorate in 1880 on Het Mekkaansche Feest and visited this most important pilgrimage site in Islam himself in the years following. This resulted in his masterpiece Mecca, a study with accompanying picture book, in which the first western photographs of Mecca were published. In 1889, Snouck left for the Dutch East Indies to study Islam there. He became the main adviser to the Dutch colonial government on Islam. In that position he also became involved in the violent Aceh War. All these events are discussed in the online exhibition, as well as Snouck's private life and his time as a professor in Leiden.


Admired and Despised, that is the title of the exhibition. Admired for his great knowledge and passion, but criticized for his ruthless policy in the Dutch East Indies and his demanding character as a teacher for his students. Now that Wim van den Doel's biography has been translated into Bahasa Indonesia, a lot of information about Snouck has become available to the Indonesian public. This exhibition also aims to contribute to this. Van den Doel based his research on the many documents (archives, correspondence) in the collections of Leiden University Libraries (UBL) and the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV).

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