Book Review, King Leopold’s Ghost

King Leopold’s Ghost reminds us how man’s greed, power and desire to conquer and exploit far away lands far outweighs his compassion for humanity.

The story begins with an informative history about the colonization of the Congo by explorer Henry Morton Stanley. The reader is offered a glimpse of Stanley’s lust for power and disrespect of humanity through his cunning plan to use Belgium’s King Leopold in a quest to exploit Africa as a goldmine. Leopold proves to be a suitable partner for Stanley, happy masking his true desires for power and money under the guise of philanthropy. He deceives the world with a false agenda, one which holds the best interest of the Congo locals at heart. Together, Leopold and Hochschild take steps which eventually leave the Congo in the hands of King Leopold. Thereafter, the locals are exposed to a dictatorship which enslaves them not only physically but also mentally, stripping their country of wealth. Leopold and Stanley’s titles of good king and adventuresome explorer are ripped away by Hochschild who is not afraid to use facts to paint a less flattering picture of the pair.

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Leopold was eager to cash in on the worlds growing demand for natural resources such as ivory and rubber which Africa was rich of and was not afraid to go to extreme lengths to achieve his goals. Punishment was measured out in whippings and included men, women and children. Hochschild uses Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad to illustrate the brutality inflicted by Leopold. Murder, decorating gardens with skull and rubbing salt into wounds were common occurrences that were openly accepted as common practice by the white Force Publique. It is estimated that the population of the Congo was reduced by half over a forty year period.

Although Leopold’s exploits were well hidden, he was not free from opposition who was determined to expose his cruelty and true intentions to the rest of the world. 

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