King Leopold’s Ghost


King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa By: Adam HochschildAuthor: Hochschild, Adam

 Title: King Leopold’s Ghost

 Genre: Nonfiction

 Publication Date: 1998

 Number of Pages: 366

 Geographical Setting: Europe and Africa

 Time Period:  1500’s -1800’s

 Series: N/A


Plot Summary: When the egocentric Belgian king Leopold II meets writer, explorer and businessman Henry Morton Stanley in 1871, result is disastrous and with deep consequences. Their common plans and collaboration begin the story of the biggest genocide of the 19th century, which has been forgotten too early, is too shameful for modern Western Europeans, and is not studied enough. King Leopold’s dream of owning his own colony in Africa is the perfect fulfillment for a megalomaniac who seeks land nearly seventy-six times bigger then his own country. Ironically, because of his reputation as a modern philanthropist and humanitarian, he colonized the Congo in 1880’s with help of Henry Morton Stanley, and all this without ever visiting Africa. Congo became his territory of exploration after looking for years for land that he could rule from distant Europe. Under the guise of civilizing the Congo’s people, he tortured, killed and ordained its inhabitants into forced labor and modern slavery. His brutal regime killed thousands. Because of travelers, missionaries, and a few individuals who witnessed Leopold’s tyranny, and their efforts to expose this genocide, they initiated the first human right movement of twentieth century. Hochschild’s book is one of the best researched documents of the cruel history of European colonization in nineteenth century Africa.

 Subject Headings: Congo, Africa, 19th and 20th century history, Colonization, Europe, Slavery, Forced Labor, Human rights movements, Belgium.

 Appeal: intense; 19th century genocide; destructive egocentrism; informative and significant part of the history; detailed research of colonial times; unknown Western European history; densely written; engrossing; violent portray of forced labor and modern slavery; tragic.

 Three Terms for Book: deeply researched, shocking tragedy, and chilling reminder of a forgotten history.


Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

  1. Jeal,      Tim, Stanley: the Impossible Life of      Africa’s Greatest Explorer –       new perspective supported by newly opened family archives on the      writer and imperialist who first explored and ruled Africa’s Congo,      together with King Leopold of Belgium. Sharp and detailed new biography      portraying Henry Morton Stanley as an undervalued explorer.
  2. Pakenham,      Thomas, The Scramble for Africa: the      White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876-1912 – an      excellent study of the colonization and partition of African territory in      the 1800s between six European rulers: Belgium,      Britain, France, Germany,      Italy and Portugal.
  3. Vanthemsche,      Guy, Belgium and the Congo      1885-1980 – a rare overview on the effects of colonialism in Africa and in its mother country.  Also addresses Belgium’s diplomacy and      politics, in addition to providing a better understanding of both      countries pasts.


Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:


  1. Sienkiewicz,      Henryk, In Desert and Wilderness      – written around a hundred years ago, the book is about two European      children, the kids of diplomats living in 1900’s Egypt.      It’s an adventurous, compelling story by a Nobel Prize winner that takes      us back in colonial times, often with stereotypical points of view from a      century ago; however, the characters are of strong moral and ethical      principles.
  2. Galbraith,      Douglas, The Rising Sun – in      this work of Historical Fiction, the author explores an expedition of      Scottish ships sent to establish a colony in Central America, later known      as Panama.      Vivid, descriptive, and adventurous.
  3. Kingsolver,      Barbara, The Poisonwood Bible – an      evangelical Baptist missionary from Georgia      brings his wife and four daughters to live in the Belgian       Congo in 1959. An insightful and compassionate view of the      lives of both white and indigenous cultures in the heart of Africa.



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