In the book, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Adams Hochschild explores the European colonization of Africa, being one of the greatest and the quickest in the history of humanity. Before 1870, nearly 80% of sub-Saharan Africa south was administered by indigenous kings, chiefs, as well as other rulers. However, by around 1910, almost the whole of the huge expanse had become European colonies or land under the control of white settlers, like it was the case in South Africa. In all these, the bloodiest single occurrence of the colonization of Africa took place in the heart of the continent in a large region also identified as Congo.
All through the book, the author explores the history of Congo with fresh as well as critical insights, bringing new examination into the book. He goes a long way in revealing the charlatan that King Leopold was, the voracity that fired his interests in Congo, and how this ended up in misdemeanors against the human race (Hochschild, 1998). One of the most interesting things about the book is the fact that it entails the global span of Hochschild’s research, which is drawn from several sources such as novels, statistical data, archives, historical texts, as well as biographies.
The Creation of the Congo Free State
In the book, Hochschild studies how King Leopold II created the Congo Free State that went to the fundamental nature of the economic, as well as political systems established in the colonial Africa. As a matter of fact, in the period between 1885 and 1908, about 5 to 8 million people suffered under the personal rule of King Leopold II. It was a barbarous rule that involved forced labor and systematic terror. Hochschild expresses a surprise for his own ignorance even as he goes through the references by Mark Twain to the deaths in the Congo, under the rule of King Leopold II.
Among the key things that strike any reader is the very fact that the author compiles very fantastic fountain of resources for the book. He fashions a rough estimation of the story by making use of obtainable resources. In as much as the book is only about 300 pages in total, there is plenty of information on the key subject.
In 1876, King Leopold II called together a geographical assembly in Brussels, where he proposed the founding of an international munificent committee for the promulgation of civil development among the inhabitants of the Congo (Hochschild, 1998). The conference was not political per se. Rather; it was a gathering of European scientists, explorers and geographers. Leopold was of the view that Central Africa was not supposed to be a place of international wrangles and power struggles (Hochschild, 1998). He proposed that an international body ought to be established that would suppress slavery and develop the country with its infrastructure. This was to take place through normal commercial practices.
Additionally, national sub-committees were to be established through a number of the centers of learning. These learning centers were to be sponsored by the national governments though not under any form of political control or influence (Hochschild, 1998). As a result, the conference established an international body, also known as the African International Association (AIA). Though it was envisaged as an international, scientific and charitable assemblage, the AIA finally became a development corporation managed by Leopold (Hochschild, 1998). King Leopold II had, therefore, managed to trick the international community into supporting his bloody initiative.
Subsequently, he organized a committee to study the Upper Congo. He used the organizations to establish the influence and, eventually, the sovereignty of a Belgian colony in the Congo Basin. The main goal of Leopold II was to take advantage of the profitable ivory market that was prevalent in the region. Later, the exportation of rubber began as early as 1890 (Hochschild, 1998).
By the mid-1890s, the extraction of rubber had become one of the colony’s most lucrative industries. In 1884, the Berlin Conference was convened to conclude the colonial partition of the continent of Africa. The following year, Leopold’s dream to colonize the Congo Basin came to fruition when he was awarded the Congo Free State. This is due to the fact that he firmly believed that colonies in the overseas were vital to the greatness of Belgium. He thus worked hard to convince in that the Belgian people and government (Hochschild, 1998).
However, they were not interested. Therefore, he began trying to get hold of the Congo Basin in his private capacity as a common citizen. King Leopold II became the absolute ruler of the newly formed Congo Free State. Thus, a country of over 2 million square kilometers became his private possession.
This is inclusive of the places, deaths, as well as events that shaped the occurrences as they took place. The book provides a lot of information regarding the deceit and the egotism that engineered the colonization of the Congo. One of the chapters in the book describes the events surrounding Henry Stanley Morton individually invented ancestry, as well as his exaggerated accounts of life in the continent of Africa.
However, behind the pretence of Morton’s expeditions to sun-Saharan Africa, there was a tendency that can only be described as an atrocious brutal streak. The book also follows Morton’s African expeditions to their intersection with Leopold’s selfishness and cupidity. In essence, the two used the justification of the Arab slave trade to create the Congo Free State under the administration of Leopold. Leopold was well-suited to fulfill Stanley’s wish for a munificent and affluent humanitarian, who would permit him to lead a force for the suppression of this stumbling block to do business with central Africa.
Stanley later became the first governor of the Congo Free State. This led to the robbing of the Congolese of their heritage, humanity and wealth (Hochschild, 1998). The two men were of the view that Africa gave them an opportunity to achieve increasing mobility towards prosperity and splendor (Hochschild, 1998). On May 29, 1885, Congo Free State was finally declared the property of King Leopold II. The author examines how Europeans drive for wealth in Africa covering up by the civilization mission to justify colonization (Hochschild, 1998).
King Leopold II used Stanley to establish the colony in the Congo Basin. Stanley acquired the control of the entire region from the local chiefs through the cloth and trinket treaties. (Hochschild, 1998) Whenever the local chiefs signed the treaties, they thought that they were just friendship treaties, not knowing that they were instead selling their land. With the signing of the treaties, King Leopold II became the solitary ruler of a population that was approximately 30 million people, according to Stanley’s estimations (Hochschild, 1998). This happened without any constitution or global regulation. As a matter fact, he was the ruler of the entire area without even setting foot in the place, or even a small fraction of his subjects having heard of him.