KingLeopold’s ghost is a story about a Belgian king’s control over some parts ofAfrica.
It also covers his early manhood and journey to becoming the ruthlessruler he is now known as. I think teenagers and adults should read this bookbecause it highlights an important part in European and African history, itmakes you an expert on King Leopold, and it is a very informative andinteresting read. There are a lot of facts, minor details, and events in this306 paged book, but I think it mainly focuses on King Leopold’s greed to expandBelgium. King Leopold controlled the Congo from 1885 to 1908. He took a lot ofnatural resources, ivory as well as rubber, were big resources he exploited,and he forced the natives to be his slaves. He tortured them, prisoned them,and controlled them with the power of fear. “His drive for colonies, however,was shaped by a desire not only for money but for power” (39). Leopold wantedmore and more, he wanted to be the most powerful king in all of Europe.
Surprisingly,in the 1870’s, 10 years before he controlled the Congo, Leopold was seen as ahumanitarian who wanted to civilize Africa. Great Britain, the U.S. and othercountries started realizing Leopold’s want for Africa and he was internationallycriticized. “For Europeans, Africa remained the supplier of valuable rawmaterials-human bodies and elephant tusks. But otherwise they saw the continentas faceless, blank, empty, a place on the map waiting to be explored” (18).
Leopold saw Africa as new land and a place to get natural resources, hecompletely disregarded all the natives. Leopold sent Henry Morton Stanley afamous explorer to explore the Congo. He also kidnapped various chiefs andsigned papers claiming land that wasn’t his. He was ambitious in a terribleway. Thousands of westerners spoke out in Africa and books were written to showthe world of King Leopold’s greed. A theme I picked up on was slavery and the “greedof colonialism”. “The only way to civilize and uplift these indolent andcorrupt peoples of the Far East” (37).
Leopold justifies his actions by sayingthe Africans need to work in order to become civilized. This is very racist andeven though Great Britain spoke against Leopold, I think they were being hypocritical.The goal in the 19th century was to colonize different countries andto expand, just as Britain colonized us. This raises the question, was GreatBritain afraid of a how powerful Leopold was becoming? So they accused him ofdoing something they did in order for him to become less powerful. The bookgoes into a lot more detail of the events occurring during the controlled, andthen later freed Africa. Read the book to find out! I personally found the bookvery interesting because I have never learned about King Leopold and what wenton in Africa. It was a little boring at parts because of the loads ofinformation but it was still a good read if you are into world history.
Theauthor did a really good job depicting the era and the importance of it inEuropean and African history. He also does really well showing the work ofother characters, such as Henry Morton Stanley. He goes into the same depthwith the other characters in the book, just as he does Leopold. The weaknessesof the book are minimal; I personally just think it was too long. Other thanthat it was personally the best nonfiction book I have ever read.
Afterfinishing reading King Leopold’s Ghost, I had a couple of questions. Should thedeath toll in the Congo be considered a genocide? The death tolls wereestimated at around ten million. Other European countries were brutal during expansionalso, does mean they are the same as Leopold and Belgium? Overall, King Leopold’sGhost by Adam Hochschild was a great book. It taught me important European andAfrican history, it made me an expert on King Leopold’s career, and it was veryinteresting as well. I recommend this book to teenagers and adults and I rateit four and a half out of five stars.