Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Luc Bulten


Dr. L.J. Bulten
+31 71 527 2706

Dr. Luc Bulten (1993) is a social historian with a special interest in cross-cultural encounters and interactions between local communities, migratory social groups, and colonial institutions in early modern South and Southeast Asia. He recently completed his PhD-thesis on the process and workings of land and population registration in eighteenth-century Dutch-colonial Sri Lanka, with a distinct focus on the perspective of the ‘registered’ Lankan families. His dissertation entitled ‘Reconsidering Colonial Registration. Social Histories of Lives, Land, and Labour in Eighteenth-Century Sri Lanka’ was part of the NWO-granted ‘Colonialism Inside Out’ project based in Leiden and in Nijmegen (Radboud University). From September 2023 onwards, Luc will continue his studies as a postdoctoral researcher in the Leiden-bound 'Exploiting the Empires of Others' project led by professor Cátia Antunes. In his sub-project Luc will be focusing on the business practices and social composition of several different Asian and Eurasian entrepreneurial families active in Dutch and British Melaka (1750-1850). Furthermore, Luc teaches several courses in social, economic, and early modern history at Radboud University, and has previously supervised several theses projects, student assistants and interns. For any inquiries about either research or potential supervision, feel free to contact him.

More information about Luc Bulten

Fields of interest

  • Global, imperial and colonial history
  • History of registration
  • Everyday aspects of, and interactions in, colonial societies
  • Indian Ocean World
  • Trans-imperial trade networks and firms
  • Medical interventions & Empire


In my postdoctoral project I aim to locate and analyse the different groups of Asian and Eurasian entrepreneurs, merchants, and traders that were active in the Dutch and British colonies in Southeast Asia between 1750 and 1850. In an effort to correct the historiographical oversight when it comes to such non-European commercial communities, I will specifically attempt to reconstruct the activities of these groups, their social composition, and the tactics their members deployed to work with or around the different colonial systems they encountered.  To understand how such social groups acted in (and interacted with) a world dominated (both politically and economically) by imperial powers, we need to understand how its members: (1) dealt with colonial policies restricting trade and business (i.e. entrepreneurship under (quasi-)monopolistic governance) ; (2) utilised, or even appropriated trade and information networks and systems established by European colonial powers; (3) established and organised themselves as a non-native, yet not-colonial community with significant wealth and social influence but relatively little political power and/or local embeddedness; and (4) related to members of other, similar social groups, as colonial historians have all too frequently been alluded to repeat segregationist narratives from the archives while recently more and more evidence has been found to suggest these communities were strongly connected and traded, did business and otherwise cooperated with one another.  By highlighting such dynamics we can attempt to (further) define how Asian (and by extension, Eurasian) communities navigated European imperial regimes and institutions, and gain a deeper comprehension of the activities and social position of non-western privately-operating trade communities (and their relation to one another) in a transitioning, globalising economy. 

Curriculum vitae

  • Postdoctoral Researcher, ‘Exploiting the Empires of Others’ project (PI: Cátia Antunes), Institute for History, Leiden University (September 2023 – present). 
  • Lecturer Economic and Social History, Radboud University Nijmegen (August 2022 – present).
  • Lecturer Early Modern History, Institute for History, Leiden University (September 2021 – January 2022).
  • Lecturer Economic and Social History, History department, University of Groningen (January – June 2021).
  • PhD candidate Economic, Social, and Demographic History, Radboud University Nijmegen (September 2017 – May 2022).
  • MA in Present(ed) History (cum laude), Radboud University Nijmegen (2016 - 2017)
  • BEd in History, HAN University of Applied Sciences (2011 - 2015

Key publications

  • Bulten, L.J. (2023, April 20). 'Reconsidering Colonial Registration. Social Histories of Lives, Land, and Labour in Eighteenth-Century Sri Lanka.' Radboud University (PhD-thesis), Supervisor(s): prof. dr. J. Kok, dr. D.B.G.W. Lyna & dr. A.F. Schrikker.
  • Lyna, D.B.G.W. & Bulten, L.J. (2022). 'Material pluralism and symbolic violence. Palm leaf deeds and paper land grants in colonial Sri Lanka, 1680–1795.' Law and History Review (First View).
  • Bulten, L.J. & Lyna, D.B.G.W. (2021). 'Classifications at work. Social categories and Dutch bureaucracy in colonial Sri Lanka.' Itinerario, 45 (2). 
  • Kok, J., Bulten, L.J. & Leede, B. de (2021). 'Persecuted or permitted? Fraternal Polyandry in a Calvinist colony, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.' Continuity and Change, 36 (3), 331-355.
  • Bulten, L.J., Kok, J., Lyna, D.B.G.W. & Rupesinghe, N. (2018). 'Contested conjugality? Sinhalese marriage practices in eighteenth-century Dutch colonial Sri Lanka.' Annales de Demographie Historique, 135 (1), 51-80.


  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Institute for History
  • Economische en Sociale geschiedenis

Work address

Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room number 2,61



  • Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen Docent Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis
This website uses cookies.  More information.