Forced Labor In "King Leopold’s Ghost"

1408 words - 6 pages

Forced Labor in King Leopold’s Ghost

In King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild, forced labor seems to be a recurring theme throughout the book. Forced labor would be non-existence or be very minimal if it wasn’t for colonialism. Google defines colonialism as an exploitation by a stronger country of weaker one; the use of the weaker country's resources to strengthen and enrich the stronger country. King’s Leopold’s Ghost, Belgium is known as the stronger country in search of a colony (Congo) for its own exploitation. Professor Landstreet defines forced labor as the most extreme form of slavery, work that people are compelled to do against their will and subjected to physical punishment if they don’t perform their work. In the following essay I will be discussing the social structure, ideologies and power relations in context with forced labor.

The scramble for Africa started from 1800s to the start of the First World War (1914). Prior to the 19th century, the rest of the world knew very little about Africa, the Dark Continent. Africa brought huge areas of lands under the control of Europeans. Colonies were created and forced labor was introduced to bring land and labor together. The main purpose of forced labor was to acquire raw materials, ivory and rubber, for processing in European industries. Leopold garnered public support at home by publicly announcing his intent to Christianize and modernize the Congolese population, all the while planning the forced labor of men, women, and children for the lucrative ivory and rubber business.

Forced labor was centered around the Force Publique. The Force Publique was created in 1885, when King Leopold II of Belgium, who held the Congo Free State as his private property, ordered his Secretary of the Interior to create a military and police force for the State. The Force Publique was the social structure of forced labor. The entire system was militarized and Force Publique personals were dispersed around Congo to enforce their power and will. AWS defines social structure as patters of social relationships that are relatively stable. These relationships may be among roles, groups, within a society. The relationships are guided by norms, and by shared meanings held by the people participating in the relationships. Force Publique existed in Congo until Congo got its independence from Belgium in 1960. It was a stable organization that created fear to the Congo by murder, mutilation, and hostage taking to force labor. The main purpose of the Force Publique was to enforce the rubber quotas and force labor. Equipped with a chicotte, a whip made of hippopotamus hide, the Force Publique were able to take and mistreat hostages. FQ were able to hold women’s hostage, which forced their husbands to gather wild rubber in the jungle and to meet strict rubber quotas. Communities that were uncooperative with the orders of the FQ often saw their villages burnt to the ground and soldiers took human hands as...

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