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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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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
And the ringleader of these gang of hoodlums who invaded the Congo and massacred its inhabitants was King Leopold II of Belgium. In a tour de force of characterization, Hochschild portrays Leopold as a petulant and greedy monster who decided at a young age that the way to wealth was ownership of an African colony and the subjugation of its inhabitants. Leopold initially made his profits through the exportation of ivory, but his bureaucrats struck gold with the expansion of the international rubber market.
The victims were the natives, who lost not only their land and their freedom, but often their lives. There is no pretty way for Hochschild to tell this story: Leopold's officials used unbelievably harsh methods to force the locals to collect rubber--all in the name of bringing them European civilization, Christian charity, and a Western work ethic. In addition to taking wives and children hostage (in subhuman conditions) until the men made their quotas, soldiers would torture or kill the inhabitants if they faltered.Read more ›
The story is told through a succession of biographical sketches of the principal villains and heroes, the former being Leopold's accomplices and the latter his opponents. Hochschild, though bent on illuminating a great human tragedy, allows himself and the reader several curious and even piquant digressions. The first suspicion that these digressions are only there to spice up the story is belied when the author manages to make them highly relevant, such as the connection between Leopold's unsuccessful wedding night and his all-consuming desire in the Congo.
Hochschild begins this book by reminding us of the figure of Affonso I, the sixteenth-century Christian King of the Kongo, pious son of a ruler converted by the Portuguese. Affonso wrote a series of eloquent letters to the Portuguese king complaining that the slave traders were depopulating his kingdom and even seizing members of the royal family. The Portuguese, however, had meanwhile discovered a traffic more profitable than gold and they were not about to give it up.
Leopold, the figurehead monarch of a small country, successfully acquired a realm larger than France, Italy and Germany combined. For many of the new imperial powers, collecting colonies was not particularly profitable, but Leopold, through a strange mix of luck, cunning, ruthlessness and breathtaking hypocrisy, managed to gain a huge fortune.Read more ›
This is not a criticism of the author, who likely didn't select his own title anyway. If you look at the book from the standpoint of what Hochschild wanted to write, it is a good but not great work. Hochschild was mostly interested in European/American personalities and focuses on them instead of a chronology of events either in the West or in Africa. At times, this makes the book confusing, as Hochschild does not use a lot of dates to help the reader sort out the order of events. On the other hand, the personalities of the day are vivid and fascinating. Hochschild has mined the vast majority of the available evidence to give us stunningly detailed (and at times salacious) details on King Leopold and his major opponents.
Perhaps the most important feature of Hochschild's writing is that he doesn't shy away from the imperfections of his heros or try to brush away the moral ambiguities of his subject. He is the first to admit that slavery was a problem even before the first major European contact with central Africa even while showing how the European/American system was far more pernicious and devastating than anything the natives had devised.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
this book is so real that when I finished reading ti , I was ashamed of being a Belgian. King Leopold certainly did not deserve the respect he got and did a lot of damage to the... Read morePublished 12 hours ago by Nadine Pauwels
I went to see the movie - "The Legend of Tarzan" where King Leopold was part of the plot. I googled to see if this was true as I had no knowledge of the subject. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Scott E.
After reading this one can certainly understand why Central Africa is so screwed up.Published 21 days ago by Daniel Olson
Enlightening history of the Congo. Written in a way that keeps your attention.Published 22 days ago by Chester
A real page turner. Captivating as well as being informative.
Lived in Africa for nearly 50 years and have only put 2 and 2 together now re the state that Africa was left in... Read more
This book has a lot going for it. It's compellingly written, novel, and salient. It shows us not only what history so often gets wrong, but also what it ignores, while giving the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ameripen
I recommend this book. The only drawback was that there were frequent cases of interjecting suppositions about persons' motives, thinking or other non-provable details, but his... Read morePublished 1 month ago by M. Davis
Well researched and written. The flow of the book is amazing. Horrifically tragic and great insight into the colonial sick mind!Published 1 month ago by Dolly Sylla