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A Must Read: King Leopold’s Ghost

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror & Heroism in Colonial AfricaKing Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror & Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I fucks with Adam Hochschild.

King Leopold’s Ghost is a brilliant book that traces how what is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo became a “possession” of the Kings, the greed and profit made from its natural resources, the grotesque violence that resulted in 10 million deaths in 30 years, and the internal and external resistance movements that led to, in the short run, 50 years of colonization by the state of Belgium and not the King.

The book is a page turner, written in some respects like a novel more than a history text, with it’s detailed attention to the “facts” as much as character and narrative development. I also learned alot that not only deepened by knowledge of Africa during the colonial period, but also helped me understand the way contemporary racial politics are embedded in this history.

Part of the reason I say I fucks with Mr. Hochschild is because his analysis is so comprehensive. I often find with history books that while I learn a lot from the author in terms of historical fact, I often see through their political agenda and/or their political blindspots (willful or benign). And it’s not that Hochschild is without a politics here. What works for me about this book is I don’t think I have read another white male historian who is ambivalent about making white historical actors (and their notions of “progress” and “democracy”) look better than they are. As much as he criticizes King Leopold’s and his Congo “government’s” sadism and greed, he is also critical of the motivations and blindspots of many of the Europeans and American whites who were happy to place all of there energies in critiquing King Leopold, while their governments and corporations were involved in the very same acts of violence with genocidal proportions against Black people in Africa and in the diaspora.

This is a must read.
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