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King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed,…

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial… (1998)

by Adam Hochschild

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,2931062,477 (4.29)249
  1. 80
    Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (chrisharpe)
  2. 40
    We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch (paulkid)
    paulkid: Complementary accounts of international interest in Central Africa's material resources, but disinterest in its people.
  3. 40
    Exterminate All the Brutes by Sven Lindqvist (Anonymous user)
  4. 10
    Congo: The Epic History of a People by David Van Reybrouck (otori)
  5. 00
    Presbyterian Pioneers in Congo by William Henry Sheppard (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Sheppard's book is discussed in King Leopold's Ghost. It's a vivid account and visually interesting to use Google Maps to track Sheppard's trail through the Congo.
  6. 00
    The Inheritors by Joseph Conrad (bertilak)
    bertilak: A character in The Inheritors by Conrad and Ford is based upon Leopold II, King of the Belgians
  7. 00
    Tears of the Tree: The Story of Rubber--A Modern Marvel by John Loadman (KayCliff)

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» See also 249 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 100 (next | show all)
I read Hochschild's "Bury the Chains" last year, and wasn't very impressed; it was too padded. This book, in contrast, has a much more interesting story, and finds a better balance between characters and events, and between details and narrative. Knowing nothing of the story going into it, the facts were revelatory. And the characters are fascinating. It is quite a page-turner.

I was bothered that Hochschild too frequently shows his own bias. Certain characters are the heroes and others the villains, and Hochschild is too willing to overlook the flaws of the heroes while imputing motives to the villains. Several times a hero and a villain will do the same thing, but in different chapters, and yet Hochschild's descriptions will be night and day. This was unnecessary. It is also unfortunate that we are missing the sources to get at most of the story. ( )
  breic | Mar 31, 2019 |
As a beginner on the subject, this is an interesting read. The author likes to go into the psychology of the individuals he's describing and I wish he wouldn't. One player is perhaps cruel because of his upbringing, one is passionate about ending the slavery, but as they weren't particularly religious, we're not sure why.

Hochschild's facts are much more interesting than his guesses. ( )
  marcosburlybiceps | Mar 22, 2019 |
Warning: Deeply dark, depressing, powerful. This is the story of the European colonization of Africa, especially the Belgian colonization of the Congo. It reveals the massive slave trade which was created, the impact to the region's peoples and resources, and sets the ground for the current ongoing dark state. It's the kind of book I didn't enjoy reading, but it moved me deeply and changed me. (Warning: Gruesome details. Photos of maimed slaves. Will mess up a student's ideas about First World nations bringing light and prosperity to subject peoples) ( )
  patl | Feb 18, 2019 |
(7) This is an account of King Leopold II's conquest of the Congo Free State in the mid-nineteenth century. It is the classic story of colonization - beneficence civilizing the lazy savage cloaking naked greed, cruelty, slavery. According to this account perhaps as many as 10 million Congolese were exterminated during these years through forced labor, malnutrition and disease, and just plain murder. Hochschild does point out that many native chiefs and societies were complicit in this slaughter and writes that 'indigenious' slavery seemingly existed in Africa long before the white man arrived. It is really a disheartening depressing book to once again have it pointed out how heartless and cruel mankind can be.

While this is the story of the Congo - complete with references to the early explorers Stanley and Livingston, Colonel Kurtz and 'Heart of Darkness', even Joseph Conrad and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle make appearances - Hochchild also points out the absolute theft and destruction Europeans/American wrought on native peoples everywhere. And the absolute lack of voice from the conquered - the Aboriginals in Australia, the Indians in America. We have little idea of the numbers of these genocides, nor do we hear a voice from these peoples recorded in history. Anyway, I digress. Clearly, the book made its point with me.

In terms of the writing and readability here - it was fairly engaging. It veered into repetition too often and this prevented it from being really engaging. I feel like it tread over the same ground again and again - especially with Morel and Casement and the others who eventually exposed the misdeeds of Leopold's Congo. I was definitely ready for things to end.

That being said, I think this does fit the bill as an important modern-day non-fiction classic. As we shake our heads at the corrupt, violent modern day Africa - it is good (and also horrifying) to be reminded of where it all began. ( )
  jhowell | Feb 3, 2019 |
History of the massive white violence in the Belgian Congo (and surrounds) that claimed ten million lives at the turn of the twentieth century in search of profit and control. It’s a chilling story, including cautionary elements about Leopold’s excellent press manipulation, as well as some significant heroes, including an African-American preacher/activist and a shipping accountant-turned-activist who noticed that cargoes weren’t going out with enough trade goods to account for the riches they brought back. ( )
  rivkat | Sep 14, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 100 (next | show all)
Although much of the material in "King Leopold's Ghost" is secondhand -- the author has drawn heavily from Jules Marchal's scholarly four-volume history of turn-of-the-century Congo and from "The Scramble for Africa," Thomas Pakenham's wide-ranging 1991 study of the European conquest of the continent -- Hochschild has stitched it together into a vivid, novelistic narrative that makes the reader acutely aware of the magnitude of the horror perpetrated by King Leopold and his minions.
Adam Hochschild's "King Leopold's Ghost" is an absorbing and horrifying account of the traffic in human misery that went on in Leopold's so-called Congo Free State, and of the efforts of a handful of heroic crusaders to bring the atrocities to light. Among other things, it stands as a reminder of how quickly enormities can be forgotten.
added by lorax | editSan Francisco Gate, Luc Sante (Sep 27, 1998)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Adam Hochschildprimary authorall editionscalculated
Björkegren, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618001905, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:26 -0400)

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Documents the plundering of the territory.

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