This bestseller (selling over 400,000 copies worldwide) almost never came to print as numerous publishers rejected it on the grounds that people weren’t interested in the history of Africa! King Leopold refers to the Belgian monarch of the late 19th century who worried about his nation falling behind in the ‘scramble for Africa’ cunningly organised the invasion of the Congo. Using fake philanthropic organisations (the International African Association) and armed ‘scientific expeditions’ (e.g. Henry Morton Stanley) the subjugation of the lands that became the ‘Belgian’ Congo was carried out under the greedy gaze of other European imperialist powers. As a study in deceit, manipulation of the media and the use of stealth to invade a region, this book has serious contemporary relevance. The subsequent exploitation of the natural resources of the Congo (mainly rubber) and the consequent deaths of half the population (sources suggest 10 million dead) go down as one of the most horrific colonial crimes of the 19th/20th century. It is no surprise that Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ with its infamous central character Kurtz, was based on the author’s experiences in the Congo. Hochschild is clear about the genocide, not being drawn into a debate about racism, but clearly situating the colonial crimes as the direct consequence of the economic exploitation. (BRHG)

King Leopold’s Ghost Cover

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