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King Leopold's Ghost Hardcover – 9 Apr 1999

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 1st Edition edition (9 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333661265
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333661260
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 3.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 837,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Amazon Review

Years ago, Adam Hochschild came across a reference to the "five to eight million lives" destroyed in the colonial exploitation of the Congo. Startled, he realised that this had been "one of the major killing grounds of modern times. Why were these deaths not mentioned in the standard litany of our century's horrors?" His corrective history makes sobering, gripping reading. In King Leopold of Belgium, who decided to buy himself an empire to compensate for his country's smallness, he portrays a villain of Shakespearian dimensions. Aided by Stanley (of "Mr Livingstone I Presume" fame) the king appropriated a section of central Africa the size of Western Europe as his personal territory. The appalling brutality that ensued, as Europeans plundered the country for rubber and ivory, is vividly captured by Hochschild. He manages to leaven the horror with touches of grotesque humour--for instance, when tricking tribal chiefs into signing away their land for bales of cloth, Stanley would, to impress his dupes, secrete a battery in his pocket with the wires in his palm, so that on shaking hands the chief "was greatly surprised to find his white brother so strong that he nearly knocked him off his feet". Hochschild has something of Simon Schama's gift for populist history; and among other things he provides astonishing background to Joseph Conrad's Congo-set masterpiece, Heart of Darkness. --Adam Roberts

Review

"Adam Hochschild has a novelist's flare for narrative, and KING LEOPOLD'S GHOST is a horrifically readable history." -- Ian Thomson, The Evening Standard, 12 April 1999

"As Adam Hochschild tells in his fascinating book about the Congo's terrible encounter with Europe. . . . the creation of Zaire under the dictator Mobutu, the break-up of that country and its renaming Congo, and the civil war that rages there now--all of these can be traced back to Leopold's bloody enterprise." -- Giles Foden, The Guardian, 24 April 1999

"As Hochschild's brilliant book demonstrates, the great Congo scandal prefigured our own times. It was the first Orwellian big lie, which sold a gigantic mechanism of greed and terror to the world as a crusade for humanitarian values. . . . that is why this book must be read and reread. In its breathtaking mendacity, in its shameless industry of lies, in its elevation of sadism and greed into a civilised routine, the Congo Free State was a testing-ground for the 20th century." -- Neal Ascherson, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, 10 January 1999

"For 23 years the King . . . brought a new dark age to the Dark Continent. In that time some ten million people--half the population--died. . . . The story of this appalling episode, and the remarkable campaign led by an ordinary English shipping clerk, Edmund Dene morel, to bring it to the attention of the world, is told in this brilliant and gripping book." -- Simon Shaw, The Mail on Sunday, 4 April 1999

"Hochschild . . . has produced a history like none other. A hundred years ago, enlightened people in the western world were outraged by a holocaust in Africa which left millions dead. Denunciations thundered from speakers' platforms around the US and Europe. . . . Yet today not one person in a thousand could say what the fuss was all about, unless, of course, they have already read this amazing book." -- Tariq Ali, The Financial Times, 3-4 April 1999

"Hochschild, in his thoroughly researched and engagingly written book, tells the story of one of the greatest human rights crimes in the past hundred years. . . . King Leopold's Ghost has all the tension and drama that one would expect in a good novel. At the same time it is . . . carefully researched and historically accurate." -- Robert Harms, Times Literary Supplement, August 27, 1999

"KING LEOPOLD'S GHOST has a riveting cast of characters: heroes, villains and bit-players, all extraordinary, all compelling tangles of neuroses and ambitions, all wonderfully drawn." -- Ronan Bennett, The Observer, 2 May 1999

"KING LEOPOLD'S GHOST is an exemplary piece of history-writing: urgent, vivid and compelling." -- Robin Blackburn, Literary Review, April 1999

"To an already long list of tyrants which includes Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Idi Amin, a late addition is required.'Late' only because King Leopold II of Belgium (1835-1909) should always have been there. As 'owner' of the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908 he was responsible for what Joseph Conrad once called 'the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience.' It is indeed a ghastly story of greed, lies and murder. And Adam Hochschild retells it well. 'King Leopold's Ghost' last week beat several excellent books to win the Lionel Gelber prize. . . . now the world's most important award for non-fiction. . . . Around the turn of this century in the depths of the Congo the bonds of humanity were unbound and the trappings of civilisation cast aside, releasing something diabolical which exists within us all. Mr. Hochschild conveys this particularly well." -- The Economist, Sept. 11, 1999

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Top Customer Reviews

This work of clarity, wit and insight throws open doors and windows on the murky mansion that Leopold built. The complex issues - political, economic and social - which could prove ponderous to convey - are superbly handled and illuminated through the skilful presentation of the protagonists and the forces which shaped and drove them. From the squalid infancy of H.M. Stanley and the hardly less emotionally stunted childhood of Leopold to their twin hunger for dominion and recognition, from the incandescent courage of those who campaigned against the murder, mutilation and destruction wreaked on the Congo to the long-unheard voices of those who were deemed to be no more than expendable vermin, a voice of articulate passion and wisdom informs this history.
This is history as it should be - vivid, informed , specific - and universally, eternally relevant.
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i have bought this again in hardback as my eye sight is not what it was,one of the best books i have ever read,dealing with the rubber trade in the belgian congo at the turn of the nineteenth century this reads like a novel with quite a few surprises along the way.if you like history then buy this book you will not be disappointed
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By A Customer on 20 July 1999
This is without the most gripping and shocking book i have ever read on this subject. Very entertainingly written almost impossible to put down even after page-1, i started reading this book in the morning and with sorrow finished late in the evening. Wish it had been a couple of hundred pages longer.
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