Stephen Snelders:

The past years I have been working on a new history of drug smuggling and the Netherlands in the twentieth century, in the context of the project The Imperative of Regulation funded by NWO, the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research. I have now come to an agreement with Manchester University Press to publish a book on the subject in the course of 2020.

The book intends to show how and why the Netherlands developed in the course of the twentieth century into a central hub of the international illegal drug trade. The book details the responses of smugglers to the state regulation of the market and the increasing demand of consumers, and develops a model of ‘criminal anarchy’ to explain the successes of the illegal drug trade. By using a long-term historical perspective on ‘the Dutch experience’ the book further elaborates and modifies the criminological concept of ‘disorganized crime’. It situates ‘criminal anarchy’ within Dutch society: historically, socially and culturally embedded in both native and migrant communities with their own historical traditions.

Historical investigation leads to the conclusion that when drug policy focuses on the fight against the supply side law enforcement will win the occasional battle, but is unlikely to win the war against drugs. Rather the reverse is the case: fighting the supply side only stimulates the proliferation characteristic of criminal anarchy. Consumer demand is uncompromising when there is no access to an alternative legal supply of drugs.

I will unfold the patterns of criminal anarchy narrating and discussing among others smuggler-users, Sixties idealists turned smugglers, and criminal entrepreneurs. The book details the activities of native Dutch, Chinese, Greek, and other smugglers before and after the Second World War; the rise of the Dutch cannabis trade and cultivation and its global connections; the Chinese, Turkish and Kurdish heroin trade; the Colombian cocaine syndicates; and the rise of the synthetic drug industry and the subversion of the state by Dutch criminal networks in the south and elsewhere in the country.