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

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King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa Themes

King Leopold’s Ghost is a historical narrative, but it is also largely a human rights document. Although Hochschild reveals the story mainly through the eyes of historical witnesses, he carefully pieces together a history of slaughter and abuses in the colonial Congo. Numerous comparisons are made between the Congo and the holocaust of World War II, such as the Elder Dempster company, that Hochschild likens to the railway systems of Nazi Germany. He highlights certain historical personages as champions of human rights, such as with George Washington Williams who wrote about “crimes against humanity” in his "Open Letter to the King."

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Hochschild also continually exposes the propaganda of the time, informing us historically of how such a large-scale human tragedy was allowed to occur. In addition, he refers t o how the ruling elite conscripted mercenaries in the Force Publique to actually execute the most brutal and repressive crimes, dissecting the psychology colonial military repression.

In a sense, Hochschild also seeks to give voice to the voiceless. In quoting diary entries, stories, reports, and articles, he painstakingly looks for African perspectives on genocide and colonial rule. He is quick to contrast this with the European take on reality that was developing during this time. For example, he explores how native Africans viewed the colonizers as cannibals as a curious inversion of a common European perception of the time. He also contextualizes European voices, historically and culturally, revealing racial bias in many of the more widely circulated accounts of this time in the Congo, such as in the Conrad's Heart of Darkness . He explores a general sense of European attitudes toward the colonizing mission in the dark continent. These ideals, Hochschild informs us, were driven largely by...

(The entire section is 422 words.)