King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild
A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

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Synopsis

In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million--all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold's Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries, travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly found themselves witnesses to a holocaust. Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman. Like her, he knows that history often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent. Chief among them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international crusade against Leopold. Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement, ended his life on a London gallows. Two courageous black Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to the outside world. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King Leopold II. With great power and compassion, King Leopold's Ghost will brand the tragedy of the Congo--too long forgotten--onto the conscience of the West.
 

About Adam Hochschild

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ADAM HOCHSCHILD has written for The New Yorker, Harper's, The New York Review of Books, Granta, The New York Times Magazine, and many other newspapers and magazines. In King Leopold's Ghost, Bury the Chains, and other books, Hochschild has earned a reputation as a master of suspense and vivid character portrayal. His skill at evoking such struggles for justice has made him a finalist for the National Book Award and won him a host of other prizes.
 
Published September 3, 1999 by Mariner Books. 366 pages
Genres: History, War. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for King Leopold's Ghost

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Hochschild teaches all of us a lesson; we cannot stand idly by and let political immoralities continue.

Nov 03 2008 | Read Full Review of King Leopold's Ghost: A Story...

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Hochschild laments about his inability to find the voices of the actual suffering Congolese, but I think that Hochschild has given them such a voice through his description and analysis of the times that we can forgive the missing facts.

Nov 03 2008 | Read Full Review of King Leopold's Ghost: A Story...

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King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa is Adam Hochschild's attempt at recreating the events of Belgium's takeover of the Congo in Africa in the late 1800s.

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In his speech, the king described the Congo's independence as "the crowning glory" of his ancestor, King Leopold II's work, and declared that Belgium's finest had delivered the land from slavery while creating a modern, civilised society.

Jun 17 2009 | Read Full Review of King Leopold's Ghost: A Story...

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