- Reading level: 14+ years
- Paperback: 384 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (Trade); Reprint edition (26 November 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0618001905
- ISBN-13: 978-0618001903
- Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.5 x 22.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,644 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 – 26 Nov 1999
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"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
"A vivid, novelistic narrative that makes the reader acutely aware of the magnitude of the horror perpetrated by King Leopold and his minions."
"As Hochschild's brilliant book demonstrates, the great Congo scandal prefigured our own times . . . This book must be read and reread."--Neal Ascherson
"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
"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
"King Leopold& #39; 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& mdash; 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."
"An enthralling story, full of fascinating characters, intense drama, high adventure, deceitful manipulations, courageous truth-telling, and splendid moral fervor . . .A work of history that reads like a novel." Christian Science Monitor
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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Kongo, rich in natural minerals, ivory, rubber and eventually uranium (80 percent of the uranium needed for the Hiroshima & Nagasaki bombs came from a mine in the Congo!) were significantly depleted by abusing and killing the local African tribes, who were forcibly/gullibly taken in as slaves. The largest export of slaves across the world including into Europe, US and the Gulf was from Congo - stories 'of ‘severed hands to account for expended ammunition'; exploitation of slaves to ensure 'highly profitable rubber' was available to manufacture tyres for the Allied Army during the World War are some examples that are presented with great details in the book.
The King of Belgium eventually lands up devising and implementing crafty schemes to usurp monies from the Belgian Parliament, trading companies, international governments including US Presidents' to keep funding his expeditions of plundering Congo. The irony is that during his reign, King Leopold never visited Congo nor ’saw a drop of blood spilled in anger. There is something very modern about that too, as there is about the bomber pilot in the stratosphere, above the clouds, who never hears screams of sees shattered homes or torn flesh’. Eventually the slavery and torture started coming to light (albeit a bit late as by then an estimated 10 to 13 million locals are estimated to have perished under torture); and led to the first formal and organised human rights movement in history, which included Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Bertrand Russell, Joseph Conrad, Edmund Morel and Roger Casement.
This is a extremely detailed narrative embedded with so many gems of insights; it provided me an invaluable perspective on how it must have been to be living in the times of colonialism - as the oppressor and the oppressed.
This was not (originally) a Belgian possession but "a secretive royal fief". Leopold was a master propagandist, calming the fears of other European powers by focussing on his philanthropic motives for entering the Congo. In reality, his interests lay in the ivory, the rubber and the potential for slave labour. Reports on the actual awful goings-on - the murders, floggings, mutilations and people worked to death - were largely quashed by Leopold's charm, his bribes and his seeming kindly nature.
A few heroes made a stand against him however, notably ED Morel and Roger Casement (who I'd only heard of as an Irish 'traitor' before - he was actually a fine and principled individual on this matter.)
Very readable book on a topic that has been conveniently forgotten.
The book rather than just a historical document that throws around figures, leads us to a journey of how colonialism affected and continues to affect not only Congo but all of Africa. It provides the reader with enough material to connect the narrative from late 1870s to a modern day Congo, without becoming a boring read in the process. Which, I must admit, is a great success.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
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.