King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa

Name:Tutor:Course:Date:King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa
King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild encompasses the injustices committed in the Congo Basin under the colonial leadership of King Leopold 2, the greed to seize vast lands and power, and the little or no regard for the welfare of Africans under his rule. The book portrays the all-important constituent of the historical transformation of human civil rights. In the history of Africa, as the book narrates, notable is the fact that the entire continent was colonized by European powers.Starting from 1880, European powers started grabbing the extensive lands in Africa. King Leopold 2 of Belgium did not disappoint as he clutched the large and mostly unexplored region surrounding the Congo River. His rule was characterized by genocide and utter plunder of the Congo of ivory and rubber. The king brutalized and tortured the people of the Congo and hacked the population by nearly 10 million. The book gives an account of a megalomaniac of grotesque magnitude, a calculating and cruel charmer of sorts. The dreadful character of King Leopold can be likened to the horrendous villains found the works of Shakespeare. Those who sought to expose the king’s extreme injustices were a handful of heroic and daring missionaries, explorers, travelers, and youthful idealists who had gone to Africa for occupation or adventure and found themselves in the midst of a holocaust. Efforts by these valiant men to expose the injustices finally led to the first major civil rights revolution of the 20th century, inclusive of the archbishop of Canterbury and Mark Twain.William Sheppard, an American of African descent, was sent as a missionary to the Congo. Upon establishing his mission center, refugee swamped the location with tales of dread and genocidal massacres. After visiting the abandoned areas, he discovered blood stains on the ground, ruined villages, piles of bodies, the disgusting reek of rotting corpses, and heaps of right hands that had been cut off by Belgian corporals. The refugees spoke of being lashed with the whip of the hippopotamus and of heads being mounted on the fence posts of colonial officials for embellishment. It was proof of the black hearts of those who humiliated and tortured multitudes of innocent children, men, and women.From the book, it is easy to distinguish that most of the time history provides a much richer company of characters. Among the intrepid was Edmund Morel, a young British shipping manager whose job was to supervise the loading and reception of ships in the Congo. In time, Edmund noticed that ships from the Congo to Antwerp carried ivory and rubber but when they got back to the Congo they were laden with fire arms, army officers, and ammunition. It was clear that the Congo was receiving nothing in return save for the selfish desires of the king. In spite of having a sick mother and other social problems that were supposed to hinder him and make him vulnerable, he refused to be bribed by King Leopold, he resigned from his job, and made it his mission to expose the king’s “legalized infamy”. He was author to many books, pamphlets, and numerous letters to editors of large newspapers in a bid to out the atrocities under the Belgium regime. Edmund Morel was the pioneer of the technique of providing evidence beyond doubt and reported them with meticulous exactness and confirmable facts. The reactions to Edmund’s photographs, reality, and truth, coupled with the man’s own valour, honor, and passion were a widespread intercontinental movement with concern to human rights. He founded the NGO of the Congo reform association and was a source of inspiration behind almost 300 assemblies in a year in Britain that attracted close to 5000 people at each event. Morel rallied Mark Twain, Booker T Washington, Archbishop of Canterbury, Anatole France, members of the clergy, members of parliament, peers, millionaires, and industrial unit workers to sign a petition that mounted campaigns against discrimination by exertion of pressure upon the governors of Belgium and other countries to amend the course in Africa.Irish patriots Roger Casement, Joseph Conrad, and George Washington were also among those who brought forward the evidence concerning the atrocities in the Congo to the entire world. They described King Leopold as a narcissistic, greedy, and a sleazy man. He had mastered the art of manipulation and wanted to persuade the rest of Europe that his intentions for wanting the Congo were driven by the need to put an end to the Arab trade. The slavery was inexistent and in the end he ended enslaving the population himself. The above mentioned heroes commenced publicizing the beatings rapes and humiliations of the people. Many died as a result of starvation disease and being worked to death, all in the name of harvesting rubber from the thick vines in which the gelatinous sap was contained. They exposed the king of using Henry Stanley Morton, the explorer to double-cross the chiefs out of their native lands. In the end, Leopold managed to gain control of the Congo region, ruling a territory larger than Germany, Spain, England, France and Italy combined.The evil and greed of the king lay in his oppressive nature. The success of his operation required people who were willing to comply with orders. Leopold used men of myriads of skills and fields like military proficiency, explorers, soldiers of fortune and concession company executives who were receptive of the prevailing mindsets of racial superiority over the locals and to inflict agony or kill. The king faced no difficulty in finding people who were like him; vile and cruel. The most important measure of Leopold’s achievement was seen by the fact that he was able to keep the brutality of his operation hiIDen and depict himself as a philanthropist and model of advancement and refinement for years. The world remained without knowledge of the unjust ways of the king who favored cutting off of hands, severing of head, taking of hostages and burning of villages.Hochschild’s riveting book gives an account that not everyone can be bought, persuaded or intimidated. George Washington Williams, one of champions for human rights was under the impression that the inhabitants of Congo lived in a paradise where respect for human rights existed but was appalled to find that it was a horrific game of viciousness practiced by the regime. Similarly, Leopold managed to fool so many people, especially in Europe, that he was an upright leader, with a clear conscience.In conclusion, the brave heroes spoke out of the injustices in the Congo at numerous meetings, wrote hundreds of letters, were heard by many commissions and gave adequate information and proven facts. Sadly, the violence against the civilians only began to abate when the population in the Congo declined to the extent that labor got expensive. The disturbing images the books puts in the readers’ minds are nothing compared to the reality of the agony the locals in the Congo had to face. Loss of family members, chopping off of hands, terrible working conditions and utter exploitation all because of greed are actions that can never be forgiven or forgotten; and to a large extent, the justice for the people will never be recovered. The book is an unsettling reminder of mankind’s inhumanity to fellow humans and how the 20th century was fabricated on top of corpses of millions of African inhabitants. The author of the book is accurate in declaring that the heroes, such as Edmund Morel, contributed immensely to the transformation global civil rights by erecting a mental picture of duty beyond countries’ borders. They inculcated a sense of accountability and a capability for outrage at agony and pain meted out at another human being, regardless of color or country of origin. In as much as the book examines the history of Africa, scholarly, the author is careful to bring out the characters, in their complexity, who both supported and opposed the King of Belgium, Leopold. The book is an epic tale surrounding a colonial master with monstrosity cruising his veins and the bravery of the men who opposed him at every turn. They did much in revolutionizing equality among all the races of the world and ensuring rights were regarded and respected.