King Leopold’s Ghost

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

eBook, 400 pages

English language

Published March 9, 2020 by HMH Books.

ISBN:
9780547525730
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 …

6 editions

Still a must-read, 20 years later

4 stars

When King Leopold’s Ghost was published two decades ago, its only briefly blipped on my radar, leaving me with the vague impression that of the hells European colonisation created in Africa, Léopold’s (and subsequently Belgium’s) Congo was located in the deepest circles. Historical colonialism, however, beyond being bad on principle, was not an issue the liberal German Left was worried about at the end of the 20th century – in part because sympathy for the post colonial struggle was de rigueur, in part out of the entirely unfounded feeling that we Germans got out of that particular pickle just in time.

Fast forward 20 years, and Germany is beginning to acknowledge its colonial past, leaving no way to dismiss the story of the colonial Congo as some other nation’s problem. Colonialism, it turns out, was hellish everywhere, with the German colonies no exception (the chicotte, the rhino hide …

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

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