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on 18 October 2017
An insightful and well-researched account of one of the forgotten genocides in Africa. The author narrates with great warmth the tenacity of individuals such as ED Morel, who fought so hard to stop the slavery and abuse in the Congo. I had never heard of ED Morel before reading this book. Hochschild also expresses regret that he could not record the efforts of more African people who fought against the awful circumstances they found themselves in, but does draw on the rare remaining scraps of historical evidence so that their voices can be heard as far as is possible. His insights into the less savoury characters involved in the scramble for rubber in the Congo - Stanley and King Leopold - are also well-researched. He avoids demonising them, despite his abhorrence of their behaviour and values, which few people in Europe would have challenged at the time. A masterful analysis of a much forgotten genocide.
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on 16 November 2015
Quite an amazing story. The 1 about the welshman,the belgian and the frenchman. ie. john rowlands, king leopold and e d morel. Morel as a clerk dealing with the stats and logistics realizes that huge wealth is being reaped and raped for virtually no cost by the King of the Belgians. The man with phenomenal energy and principles takes on Leopold and wins. Rowlands is a mere puppet who has a whole life of lying for self-promotion and destruction in trying to escape from his poverty-stricken upbringing. he helped destroy anything from 6 to 10,000,000 black lives, and he gets punished by being made an MP, then knighted and then statues raised in his dishonour. Harrowingly detailed with great sources, the author has covered his back by this ie. very difficult to attack the book by the immense research. However, the truth hurts so he still gets attacked. Once again man's inhumanity to man laid bare. Apocalypse Now and the Heart of Darkness are part of the story bringing it up to date. Another episode in the SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA. The mutilation of that continent by the civilized europeans, just before the european civilized world war 1 maims that land. We ridicule the democracies there which are a legacy of what we have done.
Rowlands cant even tell the truth about his own name.
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on 30 August 2013
This is a beautiful book that uncovers one of gravest pillage, rape and injustices of recent human history. The negligence of what I call "Africa injustices" in editors of the global system is staggering.

One problem i have with the book is that the collection of stories and accounts that makes up this volume are told almost exclusively from the "benevolent White man's view". Missionaries. Good Europeans. Good Americans, there is something old about that. This is a serious problem because it cuts across all spheres of relations - western international aid and so-called international development organizations are created to help the "poor and voiceless Africans. Bono, World Bank and IMF. And it is not true that local accounts are inaccessible on the Leopold pillage - there was a book published 1909 by a Congo native (I will provide the name if i remember) on this subject AND more local account if you dig deeper. This idea that the suffering Africans have to be rescued by the benevolent European either in lost history or the present economic problems is problematic and deeply rooted in a nameless idea that renders Africans passive and unable to tell their own stories. The problem is that, if this book was written by Africans none of you guys would have paid for it. There is something rotten about that. The effort to do it for them is actually denying them the space to act.

But to stay on the book, well researched and almost perfectly written. Hochschild is a good writer and i like the way he tackles Stanley who is almost a cult in British exploration history. I would have liked him to focus a little more on the role of Catholic Church and the pope in providing the moral backup needed for the atrocities Leopold committed.
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on 15 September 2015
An instantly absorbing read, graphically telling the tale of King Leopold of Belgium’s astoundingly ambitious African empire.

The author chronicles the despotic actions displayed by those striving to achieve the king’s outrageous aspirations and paints an all too desperate political backdrop of perceived concern.

Populated with characters who better deserve a role in fiction – as their behaviour is so contrary to what is considered even barely acceptable – and dotted with curious facts – such as the first recorded use of the phrase “crimes against humanity” being used to describe the atrocities in the Belgian Congo – this is a book where history is vividly brought to life.

An horrific subject, but brilliant read.
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on 28 December 2016
Everyone should read this book.
It is a very carefully researched work which brings together many different strands - Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Imperialism, Colonialism, Roger Casement, genocide, mass murder, mass enslavement, Henry Morton Stanley, slavery, "the white man's burden", I could go on.
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on 29 May 2015
Excellent historical accounting of what happened to the Congo Free State under Belgian King Leopold II reign. The story is so riveting it has compelled me into activism - to tell story here in Belgium. Belgians know of some of the atrocities committed against Congolese like amputations but they are not told of the systemic forced labor and other abuses that enriched Leopold. To this day there is not a single monument in all of Belgium that commemorates Congolese sacrifices. We are told Leopold was a great philanthropist, building all sorts of structures at great expense but we are never told how the financing came about. Leopold kept that information largely secret. This book helps with a bit of the unraveling and we can safely assume the money came from the blood, sweat and tears of Congolese.

My only quibble with the author is the term 'genocide' which is actually a big concern when trying to pinpoint accountability with mass death and suffering. A lot rests on how history is told with that single word. Omit the word and the history becomes a footnote. He says the death of millions of Congolese was not genocide but from a series of human rights atrocities and disease. To demonstrate the implications, for instance, take the situation with the African American in the United States. We are witnessing before our eyes lots of men dying as a result of systemic abuses - economic, social, justice, etc. Statistics tell us African American men have the life span comparable that of some Third World countries. Cities like Detroit and Baltimore are turning water off mostly in black communities because rates are too high. Because people are not connecting the dots many people are not taking the situation seriously. A huge turning of the blind-eye.

People are hung up on the idea that defining genocide is based solely on intent. As we've seen time and time and again in history ruthless systems have ways of causing mass death as a result of state sponsored policies. Genocide is really a destruction of human life on a large scale whether it is intended or not.
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on 4 January 2017
Having lived in DR Congo for 3 years I can only have wished I had had this available before spending my time there - the horror of the Leopold years of Imperial Rubber led rape of villages, and whole tracts of this wonderful country is pretty unspeakable - and is announced with full clarity by Hochschild's careful research of the archives. Lord have Mercy - a must read for any seeking to understand the legacy which this part of Africa is having to deal with.
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on 23 October 2017
a well written history piece which delivered some harrowing truth. however, it did drag in places and could have cut back on irrelevent individuals and parts. nevertheless, it's the only kind of book out there that's written about congos' past and does it with a heart wrenching and piercing account.
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on 17 September 2017
Buy it. One of the best books I have ever read.

I could write a much longer and exhaustive review, but this this book is just so gripping, powerful and eye-opening that even asking you to read these is words is keeping you from something that will bring you, as a human being, to a higher level of consciousness.
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on 15 October 2013
I would recommend this book if you like reading about African colonial history. Hochschild tells the story in an interesting way and his own personal touches to the story make it an entertaining read. I've read anti-colonial books in the past where the authors are motivated by hate and it comes across in their books making it difficult to read. Hochschild approaches the history of the Congo from an unbiased and intellectual perspective and reading the story is not only interesting but presents the facts of what happened in a pragmatic manner. Fascinating and shocking story told in the most skillful of ways ! Would recommend this book !
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