King Leopold's Ghost

King Leopold's Ghost

A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

eBook - 1999
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7
Documents the plundering of the territory.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1999
Edition: 1st Mariner Books ed
ISBN: 9780547525730
0547525737
Branch Call Number: DOWNLOADABLE eBOOK
Characteristics: 1 online resource (366 p.) : ill., map

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j
Justinian537
Nov 27, 2018

To add to the reviews above, which more than adequately summarize the essence of this very disturbing, deeply moving and powerfully written book, the following:

1) The 30-year reign of terror that unfolded in the Congo Free State from roughly 1885-1915 had at its roots the greed, venality and deviousness of King Leopold II, but underlying this was a premise that also governed the actions of other European powers as they engaged in the mad “scramble for Africa”: that the continent and its resources were free for the taking and that the native peoples didn’t count; they were black, savage heathen, a lesser order of being, had no rights as human beings, and could be starved, shot for sport, tortured, whipped, mutilated, beheaded, dismembered or worked to death – whatever was necessary in order to extract the region’s natural resources (ivory and rubber). This ultimately led to the deaths of over 10 million Congolese, and, sadly, was a scenario repeated in many other parts of Africa and elsewhere. It also served as a template for the entire subsequent history of the Belgian Congo, and later, Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko and the DRC under the Kabilas – because what else had they ever known but greed, corruption and conflict? This was the legacy of Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” which so many were eager to assume in the late 19th Century. The impression of black Africans given in such popular novels as H. Rider Haggard's "King Solomon's Mines" and "Allan Quatermain", and the reports of Henry M. Stanley on how many blacks he'd shot and how many villages he'd destroyed in his journeys on the Congo River, only helped to reinforce the idea that Africa was ripe for exploitation and that somehow this was doing the black inhabitants a favor since Christian missionaries often accompanied the colonial adventurers.
2) Intertribal rivalries often were a factor in the atrocities and made them worse, and remain the curse of the Congo to this day, as seen in how the Rwandan genocide of the 1990’s spilled over into the eastern Congo and engendered a protracted period of civil war and additional suffering, which the government was powerless to control because the country is too large and unwieldy to be effectively governed; perhaps if it were split up into several smaller states according to tribal divisions the condition of “war without end” could be mitigated. This is unlikely to ever happen.
3) The United States pays appallingly little attention to what happens in the Congo or the rest of sub-Saharan Africa because the area is not seen as strategically important. The holocaust in the Congo, and its successor conflicts today, are practically unknown, and the Rwandan genocide received far less attention than it should have. The one exception was in 1961 when U.S. intelligence services helped engineer the assassination of Patrice Lumumba to prevent the country from falling under Soviet influence. America looked the other way and made Mobutu an ally, knowing he was looting his own country (following in Leopold's footsteps!)...after all, the Congo possessed numerous deposits of many scarce and valuable metals...especially uranium.
4) Perhaps the one positive effect of the Congo holocaust was that the efforts of Morel, Casement, Williams, Sheppard and others to expose it helped to spark the modern human rights movement, although its influence in much of the world was (and is) sadly limited. Many other holocausts were to follow in the blood-soaked history of the 20th Century.
5) King Leopold’s Ghost must be laughing uproariously, and the Congo remains in many ways the Heart of Darkness.

j
jillmarie58
Jun 05, 2017

A powerful book about the misery created to the people of the Congo by a self-centered, dishonest, heartless Belgian king and the amazing pre-internet marketing and publicity efforts by many people across many decades (1880-1910) to raise international awareness and efforts to end King Leopold's evil tyranny. I couldn't put the book down. This is not what we learned in history class as kids, although my daughter was learning about it in an African Studies class at Knox College at the same time I was reading this.

b
Bookafterbook
Aug 27, 2016

Frightening. The story that foretells the truth of politics and economics in Africa now.

g
gjanzen
Apr 26, 2011

This is the story of Belgium's blood-stained history in central Africa. If you got to Brussels today you will find pillaged Congolese 'loot' from the Leopold era in museums, and no memorials to the millions of Congolese who died under the Belgium boot. That is, I suppose, no different from the spoils of colonial power on display all over Europe (The Mall in London is a chilling example).

For a lighter but no less enlightening look at Congo's history, try "In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz" by Michela Wrong.

j
jwarning
Apr 09, 2011

A strong warning against quiet and subtle nation-building. The author follows Belgium's colonialism into modern day nation-building. The reader cannot help but recognize the political and popular public relations tools used by individuals and governments in pursuit of profits, and at the expense of culture, human life, and natural resources. Excellent book.

i
imakio
Sep 15, 2010

An incredible and disturbing book about the history of the rubber industry in Africa.

c
Cabby
Sep 09, 2008

Book club.

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