King Leopold’s Ghost By Adam Hoschild

1546 words - 7 pages

In King Leopold’s Ghost, Hoschild shares with his readers the unfamiliar story of King Leopold of Belgium’s exploitation of the Congo and the horrible crimes committed against humanity for economical and political gain. The author’s goal in this book was to bring awareness to what happened at this moment in history. Hoschild shows us that a lot of history as we know it is biased and Eurocentric. Many times history is authored or monitored by those who are in power (politically or economically) and their biases are created out of maliciousness, ignorance or self-preservation. Throughout this book, Hoschild was able to illuminate and explore the other side of this very unknown piece of history ...view middle of the document...


I think that how media is portrayed plays a huge part in how history gets told and passed on. Hoschild talks a lot about Leopold’s ability to “spin control.” In many instances Leopold refers to Africa as the “Magnificent African Cake,” (58) and telling the rest of the world that he was merely opening up Africa for free trade, trying to stop slave trade and that he genuinely had no sort of commercial interest. The U.S and many other countries were fooled and began to recognize the Belgium claim on the Congo, thinking they were supporting an international free trade zone, not a region of human slaughter. Hoschild used the analogy of Leopold as a great “theatrical producer.” Leopold seemed to have a grasp and understanding of “public relations” and know the importance of promoting himself as a humanitarian. He was not only able to fool most of the world while these events were going on, but also once he was “caught.” He was able to manipulate and control the outcome of his personal profit and his mark on history.
In chapter five, Otto von Bismarck, the Chancellor of Germany called Leopold’s plans a “swindle.” He wasn’t keen on the idea of supporting or recognizing the colonization of the Congo, until Leopold had Bismarck’s banker work with him to convince him that Germany would see a lot more trade and profits from it. I obviously have no idea what is written in European history books, but these kind of conniving schemes are what I imagine go on a lot between people of high command, whether to “keep them quiet” about something they know or to get them on board with something they are involved in. I also think these under the table deals would not be mentioned in the history books. I’m sure that even though Bismarck was not completely in agreement with Leopold, his people and country praised him for taking part and supporting what they believed to a new colony of free trade brining in many goods and profit for Germany.
Many personal accounts were described this time in the Congo as brutal, inhumane and that King Leopold was making his entire fortune unfairly by forced slave labor. George Washington Williams went to the Congo because he wanted to go and help build the country (according to the artificial vision that was painted by Leo). When he was able to see first hand, he realized what kind of hell was really taking place. He wrote an open letter to King Leopold accusing him of tyranny and cruelty, and no one took notice. Another account, which Hoschild refers to frequently, in chapter nine, is Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” He took a steamboat job in the Congo and during his time spend there he exclaimed that he, “was so horrified by the greed and brutality among white men he saw in the Congo that his view on human nature permanently changed” (142). These first hand accounts are what I think make the difference in determining what is true, unbiased history. Letters, diaries and records provide us with a window to look into what was...

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