- Paperback: 366 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (October 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780618001903
- ISBN-13: 978-0618001903
- ASIN: 0618001905
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 684 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,905 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa Paperback – September 3, 1999
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"As Hochschild's brilliant book demonstrates, the great Congo scandal prefigured our own times . . . This book must be read and reread."--Neal Ascherson The Los Angeles Times
"A vivid, novelistic narrative that makes the reader acutely aware of the magnitude of the horror perpetrated by King Leopold and his minions." The New York Times
"King Leopold’s Ghost is a remarkable achievement, hugely satisfying on many levels. It overwhelmed me in the way Heart of Darkness did when I first read it—and for precisely the same reasons: as a revelation of the horror that had been hidden in the Congo." -- Paul Theroux
"Carefully researched and vigorously told, King Leopold’s Ghost does what good history always does -- expands the memory of the human race." The Houston Chronicle
About the Author
ADAM HOCHSCHILD is the author of seven books. King Leopold's Ghost was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, as was his recent To End All Wars. His Bury the Chains was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and PEN USA Literary Award. He lives in Berkeley, California.
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The story is just incredible. Chronologically, Hochschild does a great job at tying together a complex story over decades and even centuries, beginning with tale of the European discovery of the Congo river and then honing in on Leopold's obsession with colonial expansion and the Congo specifically. He describes the casual brutality of Leopold's regime extremely effectively before skillfully introducing the figures in the movement that rose up to make the world aware of what was happening in Africa. Along the way, the author does a great job of putting the events into historical context and addressing likely counterarguments made be pro-Leopold sources (e.g. why there was outrage about the Congo specifically despite equally brutal colonial regimes elsewhere in Africa, the pre-existence of continental African slavery, etc). Hochschild does a great job of developing characters and presents a mountain of irrefutable evidence to back up his main arguments, all of which is done in an extremely engaging manner. The author's epilogue, written 10 years after the initial publication, is also even handed and insightful.
If I have any complaint with the book, it's that the author sometimes makes leaps of judgement in the narrative that aren't necessary, especially when it comes to speculating whether certain characters in the story previously l crossed paths or allowed specific people/events to privately influence their decisions. The story is compelling enough without these speculations. He also (rightfully) demonizes Leopold and other figures in the regime, but spends less time characterizing anti-colonial figures whose backgrounds and personal lives are shady at best. While certain players are demonstrably more despicable than others, I felt that Hochschild could have been a little more even handed in describing the faults of his protagonists at times, if for nothing else than to appear more impartial as a narrator and derail his critics.
Overall, the book is outstanding and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a fast paced story, context about the European scramble for Africa, or insight as to how Africa developed through the 20th century.