King
Leopold’s ghost is a story about a Belgian king’s control over some parts of
Africa. It also covers his early manhood and journey to becoming the ruthless
ruler he is now known as. I think teenagers and adults should read this book
because it highlights an important part in European and African history, it
makes you an expert on King Leopold, and it is a very informative and
interesting read. There are a lot of facts, minor details, and events in this
306 paged book, but I think it mainly focuses on King Leopold’s greed to expand
Belgium. King Leopold controlled the Congo from 1885 to 1908. He took a lot of
natural 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 wanted
more 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 a
humanitarian who wanted to civilize Africa. Great Britain, the U.S. and other
countries started realizing Leopold’s want for Africa and he was internationally
criticized. “For Europeans, Africa remained the supplier of valuable raw
materials-human bodies and elephant tusks. But otherwise they saw the continent
as 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, he
completely disregarded all the natives. Leopold sent Henry Morton Stanley a
famous explorer to explore the Congo. He also kidnapped various chiefs and
signed papers claiming land that wasn’t his. He was ambitious in a terrible
way. Thousands of westerners spoke out in Africa and books were written to show
the world of King Leopold’s greed. A theme I picked up on was slavery and the “greed
of colonialism”. “The only way to civilize and uplift these indolent and
corrupt peoples of the Far East” (37). Leopold justifies his actions by saying
the Africans need to work in order to become civilized. This is very racist and
even though Great Britain spoke against Leopold, I think they were being hypocritical.
The goal in the 19th century was to colonize different countries and
to expand, just as Britain colonized us. This raises the question, was Great
Britain afraid of a how powerful Leopold was becoming? So they accused him of
doing something they did in order for him to become less powerful. The book
goes into a lot more detail of the events occurring during the controlled, and
then later freed Africa. Read the book to find out! I personally found the book
very interesting because I have never learned about King Leopold and what went
on in Africa. It was a little boring at parts because of the loads of
information but it was still a good read if you are into world history. The
author did a really good job depicting the era and the importance of it in
European and African history. He also does really well showing the work of
other characters, such as Henry Morton Stanley. He goes into the same depth
with the other characters in the book, just as he does Leopold. The weaknesses
of the book are minimal; I personally just think it was too long. Other than
that it was personally the best nonfiction book I have ever read. After
finishing reading King Leopold’s Ghost, I had a couple of questions. Should the
death toll in the Congo be considered a genocide? The death tolls were
estimated at around ten million. Other European countries were brutal during expansion
also, does mean they are the same as Leopold and Belgium? Overall, King Leopold’s
Ghost by Adam Hochschild was a great book. It taught me important European and
African history, it made me an expert on King Leopold’s career, and it was very
interesting as well. I recommend this book to teenagers and adults and I rate
it four and a half out of five stars.