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The Devil and Mr. Casement: One Man's Battle for Human Rights in South America's Heart of Darkness First Edition Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0374138400
ISBN-10: 0374138400
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Goodman (The Rattlesnake), an honorary research associate at London's Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, chronicles the dangerous 1910s quest of British activist Roger Casement to publicize the human rights abuses against local Indians by brutal Peruvian rubber baron Julio César Arana's Peruvian Amazon Company. British envoy Casement's 700-plus–page report on the mass violence and deaths of 30,000 natives to produce an international rubber surplus was published by the House of Commons, and Arana's empire was eventually dismantled, but not before economic and political pressures were used to threaten Casement and Britain's global colonial policy as well. The book is most fascinating when detailing Arana's bold skirmishes with Casement in the media and in the courts. Well researched and exquisitely told, Goodman's account of one brave man bringing down a cruel business empire is worthy of attention. 8 pages of b&w illus.(Feb.)
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From Booklist

The famous Irish patriot who was executed as a traitor in 1916 by the British government, Roger Casement had been a British diplomat whose last posting is the subject of this thoroughly researched study. Dispatched by the Foreign Office to Amazonian Peru to investigate atrocities against Indian rubber workers, Casement was the obvious choice for such a mission, Goodman explains, because he exposed Belgium’s colonial brutalities in the Congo. This time, Casement encountered an opponent of wily tenacity and bottomless chicanery. He was Julio César Arana, whose employment practices were described and published in London based on the testimony of Walter Hardenburg, an American who in 1909 emerged from a hair-raising traverse of Arana’s tropical rubber empire with stories of enslaved, tortured, and murdered Indians. While covering the governmental machinery moving in the background of Casement’s inquiry, Goodman highlights the care and savvy with which Casement undertook his assignment. Goodman’s research shows well here, and his pacing will hook readers interested in colonialism, human rights, or Casement himself. --Gilbert Taylor
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (February 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374138400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374138400
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,210,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By david brown on March 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In 1909 the muckraking British journal TRUTH printed allegations that a British registered, but Peruvian controlled, rubber company was enslaving native workers in the Putumayo region of Peru.

The demand and price of rubber was increasing with the rise of the automobile industry. Julio Cesar Arana (1864-1952) obtained a concession in the Peruvian Amazon in which to harvest the native rubber trees. Unfortunately this required significant labor to find the trees in the jungle, to tap the trees and to transport the rubber through the jungle to navigable rivers. The central allegation was that the overseers recruited by Arana had enslaved the natives to perform these services, essentially without compensation or even food, by means of violence, rape and murder.

Arana had floated a British company on the London Stock Exchange to conduct these operations. Consequently the publication of the allegations put the both the British government and the British Directors of the company, all of whom claimed ignorance, in a sensitive position. A company commission was sent to Peru in 1910 to investigate. Attached to the commission was Roger Casement (1864-1916), a British diplomat, who had been central to the investigation of similar conditions in the Belgium Congo in 1904.

The material in this book is quite fascinating. The author, Jordan Goodman,offers brief histories of Arana and the evolving rubber industry. However the bulk of the book is the history of how the allegations reached Britain, how the material came to be published and its political implications. The latter is interesting inasmuch as the Company was British, the operations were in Peru and the latter was recognized as being within the American sphere of influence (i.e. Monroe Doctrine).
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a brilliant drama and adventure in the darkness of the Peruvian Amazon. One man, Roger Casement, dared to venture into the Amazon jungle to stop the terror that killed almost thirty thousand Indians. Julio Cesar Arana, the Peruvian rubber baron, was torturing and murdering his workers. It is a story that takes you to London, Washington DC and the Amazonian rain forests.
I couldn't put it down. Well written and fascinating!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Despite the complaint of another reviewer, this book is not about Sir Roger Casement. Its focus is on the exploitation of the resources and native people of the upper Amazon, the political intrigue that nurtured it, and the criminal business-as-usual mentality that sustained it. Because the charges involved British interests - unlike the Congo - there was comparatively little international hysteria in addressing the genocidal doings along the Putumayo. This particular crusade has been largely forgotten, remaining under the rug where it was swept by South American, US, and British diplomacy a century ago.

This is instructive. This period bridges two eras: the colonial conquest - and extermination - of native peoples by European settlers and their governments; followed by the era of "totalitarian regimes". What we see is no break between the two, but continuity. These are not South American Nazis at work in this tale, but eminently respectable businessmen such as Sr. Arana and his British partners; ensconced in the financial and political world of the West, conducting the most gruesome slavery, unchallenged except by pesky mavericks like Casement. That he could be knighted by one hand, and executed by another for "treason," is indicative of the West's schizophrenia in facing up to its own moral accountability.

A good accounting of an issue far from resolved at the so-called democratic "end of history."
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Format: Paperback
In reading around in the corners of history you come across all kinds of interesting tidbits. The life of Roger Casement is one of those. While the details of the horrific rubber trade in the South America have been well portrayed in such books as Wade Davis' One River so don't need retelling, the role of Casement in their expose' makes an good story but maybe a bit too detailed for other than a professional historian. None-the-less, I enjoyed Goodman's book, but a couple of weeks after finishing it I wonder what it has added to the stock of knowledge I can retain. What stands out is not the center of the authors focus: yes, the oft repeated horrors inflicted on the natives was hard to read---yet I already knew that, and the details of the governmental processes in England were not so interesting. The devil, in this case the rubber baron Arana, emerges out of the whole incidence vindicated in his belief that no matter what Casement revealed, he could continue his exploitation of Indian rubber collectors. So Casement had a moral victory (without any British legislation to prevent business involvement in other foreign crimes) but did not prevent mistreatment in Peru from continuing. The come-uppance of the rubber trade was eventually the domination of plantations in South East Asia, and Arana was undone by business rather than punishment for his crimes.

So what sticks in my mind? It is Casement's treason against the Crown in seeking German aid for Irish independence during WWI.
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