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King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa Paperback – Bargain Price, September 3, 1999
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King Leopold of Belgium, writes historian Adam Hochschild in this grim history, did not much care for his native land or his subjects, all of which he dismissed as "small country, small people." Even so, he searched the globe to find a colony for Belgium, frantic that the scramble of other European powers for overseas dominions in Africa and Asia would leave nothing for himself or his people. When he eventually found a suitable location in what would become the Belgian Congo, later known as Zaire and now simply as Congo, Leopold set about establishing a rule of terror that would culminate in the deaths of 4 to 8 million indigenous people, "a death toll," Hochschild writes, "of Holocaust dimensions." Those who survived went to work mining ore or harvesting rubber, yielding a fortune for the Belgian king, who salted away billions of dollars in hidden bank accounts throughout the world. Hochschild's fine book of historical inquiry, which draws heavily on eyewitness accounts of the colonialists' savagery, brings this little-studied episode in European and African history into new light. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Hochschild's superb, engrossing chronicle focuses on one of the great, horrifying and nearly forgotten crimes of the century: greedy Belgian King Leopold II's rape of the Congo, the vast colony he seized as his private fiefdom in 1885. Until 1909, he used his mercenary army to force slaves into mines and rubber plantations, burn villages, mete out sadistic punishments, including dismemberment, and committ mass murder. The hero of Hochschild's highly personal, even gossipy narrative is Liverpool shipping agent Edmund Morel, who, having stumbled on evidence of Leopold's atrocities, became an investigative journalist and launched an international Congo reform movement with support from Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington and Arthur Conan Doyle. Other pivotal figures include Joseph Conrad, whose disgust with Leopold's "civilizing mission" led to Heart of Darkness; and black American journalist George Washington Williams, who wrote the first systematic indictment of Leopold's colonial regime in 1890. Hochschild (The Unquiet Ghost) documents the machinations of Leopold, who won over President Chester A. Arthur and bribed a U.S. senator to derail Congo protest resolutions. He also draws provocative parallels between Leopold's predatory one-man rule and the strongarm tactics of Mobuto Sese Seko, who ruled the successor state of Zaire. But most of all it is a story of the bestiality of one challenged by the heroism of many in an increasingly democratic world. 30 illustrations. Agent: Georges Borchardt. First serial rights to American Scholar. Author tour.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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I homeschool my family of boys. We paired this book with a study of colonization in New Mexico, our home state.
This book is astonishingly well written. It is a pleasure to read the writing, if only the subject matter were not so horrible. This is the way history should be written, and if I could give the book a sixth star, I would.
One decent enough map,several pages of photographs. I compare this book to John Rabe's diary on the Rape of Nanking or Hiang S. Nor's account of human evil in Cambodia for understanding that people are not inherently good. Every generation must be civilized by its elders. Failing that, well, the results are well documented.
We are lucky to have this report of a hideous tyranny inflicted upon countless helpless Africans--men, women, and children. How carefully controlled the news was. So little of the loathsome details ever leaked out until one heroic man refused to be part of the cheering section for King Leopold and his systematized villainy. Few outsiders were allowed into the king's private colony and those who came never revealed the horrible truth to the unsuspecting world -- the truth about the amputation of hands as punishment for gathering too little rubber from the trees. But isn't that so often the way colonialism works? Controlling the news is the first order of business, no matter who the persecutor and exploiter is, whether the United States or France or any other conqueror. It's just that Leopold was a master at it and moreover he was the only one at the top of the heap, at the head of the corporation, the single owner of millions of souls enslaved to rubber trees. He was able to construct a false front as a charitable foundation, and everyone was glad to believe him.
This horrifying book will stay in your memory forever. It is a damning revelation of inhuman greed on the part of a few. It is also a disheartening history of so many others who refused to listen when confronted with rumors of torture and genocide. It was so very easy to turn away and put it out of mind.
Of course the crowning infamy is that Leopold was allowed to die a natural death.
This book is a revelation, and, by the way, easily readable in the Kindle version.
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