King Leopold II's Colonization of Congo

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The book provides an insightful account of the period between the year 1885 and 1908. During this time, King Leopold II of Belgium privately owned, developed, and controlled a great part of Congo region known as Congo Free State. King Leopold II was known for his philanthropic and humanitarian work, where he spread the western civilization and Christianity to the African region. However, much of the African territory was controlled by western nations such as England and France. Leopold II was determined to expand the Belgian Kingdom by creating colonies in Africa. He worked with renowned explorers where he obtained information about Africa. In the late 1870s, Leopold managed to convince Henry Morton Stanley to work for him in the Congo region (Hochschild 90). During their partnership, Stanley helped Leopold in developing infrastructure in the region and swindling local chiefs to surrender their lands. Meanwhile, Leopold maintained a favorable image of his philanthropic missions in Congo which ensured that the Europeans thought of him positively and hence gained the support of many nations such as the United States and France. With this support, Leopold’s control over Congo strengthened started developments in the lands. Through his administrators in Congo, Leopold enslaved Africans and forced them to work as poachers and rubber harvesters (Hochschild 163). Throughout this period of Belgian rule, many Africans lost their lives as those who revolted were killed.

From this book, one of the significant events that can be seen is colonialism. However, this idea was concealed through hypocrisy as the colonizers used other reasons to enter Africa. For instance, in his effort to colonize and control part of Africa, King Leopold II used philanthropic missions, civilization, and Christianity to take control of Congo. He did not state his intentions outright. In Europe and America, people thought that Leopold was spreading Christianity, civilization, and did humanitarian work in Congo (Hochschild 94). His intentions were seen as determined to help the Africans progress. He was an intelligent and deceiving man since he maintained a favorable image of his work to the Europeans. During the entire time, Leopold’s intentions were to expand the Belgium kingdom (Hochschild 37). Since the nation was relatively small, he deceived other nations to get support. While the Europeans and the Americans thought that he was helping the Africans, in private, Leopold was colonizing Congo and exploited the people. He forced them to work in his industries and killed those who rebelled. This is similar to a method that was used by other western nations. They first entered the African region as missionaries with an aim of spreading Christianity and civilization but their true intentions were to exploit the resources of the natives, which was hypocritical.

Another important issue that is clear from the book is imperialism. This is the extension of a nation’s power and control to other regions. During the period covered by the book, many western nations have established colonies in Africa. The Europeans interests in Africa had started in the sixteenth century after the explorers discovered the lands. Therefore, by the middle of the nineteenth century most parts of Africa, especially the coastal regions had become colonies of the European nations (Hochschild 87). The resources and operations of such regions were controlled by the foreign powers. The local chiefs who ruled over many African regions became subjects to the foreigners. Imperialism is evident in King Leopold’s strategy. He was desperate to increase the territory of Belgium and increase its control over other nations. This was well done in the Congo region. By hiring Stanley, Leopold established a Belgium control in Congo. He built roads and railway line to enable him to exploit the resources of the interior region (Hochschild 170). Leopold rule in Congo was through terror and dictatorship. These incidences illustrate imperialism by the western nations.

Another thing that stood out from the text was how King Leopold II was able to get away with his colonization of the Congo region for long. Leopold’s intentions were to obtain a colony in Africa like other superior nations of Europe. However, to get the support of other countries, he deceived people of his intentions. Leopold was known for his humanitarian and philanthropic missions. He was therefore liked by people. He was seen as a person who wanted to spread Christianity and civilization. While Stanley worked in Congo, Leopold remained in Europe where he continued with events for philanthropic causes (Hochschild 94). Therefore, he was able to maintain a favorable image among the Europeans. Therefore, when his actions in the Congo were criticized, few people take note of the critics. His reputation as a philanthropist has grown tremendously. Additionally, Leopold sought support and approval of other large nations such as the United States and France. Through lobbying of the senators in the US and making deal with the French government, Leopold rule in Congo was recognized (Hochschild 248). This helped in solidifying his control in the region. Therefore, by deceiving people of his intentions and seeking the support of European nations, Leopold managed to colonize the Congo region and ruled for many years.  

Work Cited

Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold's ghost: A story of greed, terror, and heroism in colonial           Africa. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999. Print.

November 13, 2023




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Literature Review

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