King Leopold's Ghost

King Leopold's Ghost

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

Book - 1998
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In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million--all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movementof the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold's Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust. Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman. Like her, he knows that history often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent. Chief among them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international crusade against Leopold. Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement, ended his life on a London gallows. Two courageous black Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to the outside world. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King Leopold II. With great power and compassion, King Leopold's Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo--too long forgotten--onto the conscience of the West.
Publisher: Boston, Mass. : Houghton Mifflin : 1998
ISBN: 9780395759240
Branch Call Number: 967.5 HOC 1998
Characteristics: 366p illus


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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.

Aug 27, 2016

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

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.

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.

Sep 15, 2010

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

Sep 09, 2008

Book club.

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