King Leopold's ghost

a story of greed, terror, and heroism in Colonial Africa

366 pages

English language

Published 1998 by Houghton Mifflin.

ISBN:
978-0-618-00190-3
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OCLC Number:
39042794

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4 stars (1 review)

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 movement of 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 …

7 editions

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4 stars

"“Those who are conquered,” wrote the philosopher Ibn Khaldūn in the fourteenth century, “always want to imitate the conqueror in his main characteristics — in his clothing, his crafts, and in all his distinctive traits and customs.”"

King Leopold II raped and plundered Congo for 25 years. An estimated 10 million Africans were killed in his quest for riches (half of Congo's population). Among all the brutality in Congo, the rubber harvest is singled out as especially horrendous. (This period of terror is stamped into the Mongo language where "to send someone to harvest rubber" is an idiom meaning "to tyrannize.")

Belgium bought the colony from Leopold in 1908, but they made few structural changes.

After "independence" Lumumba offered a brief flicker of hope, but there was no way Western capitalists would tolerate his talk about economic independence as a requirement for true independence. He was assassinated in 1961 to …

Subjects

  • Forced labor -- Congo (Democratic Republic) -- History -- 19th century
  • Forced labor -- Congo (Democratic Republic) -- History -- 20th century
  • Indigenous peoples -- Congo (Democratic Republic) -- History -- 19th century
  • Indigenous peoples -- Congo (Democratic Republic) -- History -- 20th century
  • Human rights movements -- History -- 19th century
  • Human rights movements -- History -- 20th century
  • Congo (Democratic Republic) -- Politics and government -- 1885-1908
  • Congo (Democratic Republic) -- Politics and government
  • Congo (Democratic Republic) -- Race relations -- History -- 19th century
  • Congo (Democratic Republic) -- Race relations -- History -- 20th century