Exterminate All the Brutes

by Sven Lindqvist

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How does Lindqvist represent famous explorers like Henry Stanley and Carl Peters in Exterminate All the Brutes?

Lindqvist represents explorers like Stanley and Peters as violent, power-hungry men. He explains the way that these white colonizers slaughtered countless Indigenous people, often without their governments knowing the extent of what they were doing. His representation of this history suggests that it was actually the explorers who should be considered brutes, not the Indigenous people they killed.

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Lindqvist is quite critical of famous explorers like Henry Stanley and Carl Peters in Exterminate All the Brutes. For example, consider how he explains the way European men were responsible for the mindless slaughter of so many innocent Indigenous people. Lindqvist does not hold back on using harsh language to describe such harsh actions. He also points out how many of the explorers, particularly Britsh ones like Stanley, frequently did such violent things without the complete support of the monarchy, or without the monarchy knowing the extent of what they were doing. By underscoring this point Lindqvist shows how many explorers were killing just to kill and to feel powerful and not acting on precise orders from their country’s government.

It is interesting to note how this representation makes the phrase used in the title of the book ironic. “Exterminate all the brutes” is a phrase from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness that demonstrates colonial enthusiasm for the killing of Indigenous people. These people were viewed as savage brutes just for living a lifestyle that was different from the ones in Western Europe. Yet Lindqvist’s descriptions of the power-hungry, violent behavior seen in men like Stanely and Peters suggest that it was in fact the European colonizers who were the brutes in the situation.

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