why did king leopold want the congo

Apparently finding nothing reprehensible about Leopold's ambitions, Stanley set about his task with a will. Unfortunately, for the Congo, it was one of the only places in the world to have a large supply of wild rubber, and the government and its affiliated trading companies quickly shifted their focus to extracting the suddenly lucrative commodity. This article is about the European colonization of the Congo region. Then, rather than perish in the impenetrable country of the cascades, Stanley took a wide detour overland to come within striking distance of the European trading station at Boma on the Congo estuary. Joseph Conrad, who spent six months in the Congo in 1890, draws a memorable portrait of this rapacious trade in his novel Heart of Darkness. Read about our approach to external linking. But the slashing of the territory's populationthrough a combination of disease, famine, slave labor, suppression of rebellions, and diminished birthrateindisputably occurred on a genocidal scale. In 1908, international pressure forced the king to turn the Congo Free State over to the country of Belgium. Its report that year to the Belgian king mostly focused on disease, but stressed that forced labor for rubber and other products "subjects the natives to conditions of life which are an obstacle to their increase" and warned that this situation, plus "a lack of concern about devastating plagues ancient and modern, an absolute ignorance of people's normal lives [and] a license and immorality detrimental to the development of the race," had reached "the point of threatening even the existence of certain Congolese peoples" and could completely depopulate the entire region (Bulletin Officiel, 1920, pp. He was the architect of one of history's greatest, if lesser known, crimes against humanity. A cointegration analysis, CRE Working paper, n02/10, juin 2010, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Colonization_of_the_Congo_Basin&oldid=1117806574, The fever-ridden mangroves of the lower Niger by the brothers, This page was last edited on 23 October 2022, at 17:53. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited. [11]:66. Hochschild, Adam (1998). When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource. Virtually no information about the true nature of King Leopold's Congo reached the outside world until the arrival there, in 1890, of an enterprising visitor named George Washington Williams. National Geographic Society is a 501 (c)(3) organization. Leopold, however, made the Belgian government pay him for his prized possession. Standing close by, one visitor said, "I didn't know anything about Leopold II until I heard about the statues defaced down town". But other scholars use even higher numbers. If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer. Inside the palatial walls of Belgium's Africa Museum stand statues of Leopold II - each one a monument to the king whose rule killed as many as 10 million Africans. He persuaded first the United States and then all the major nations of western Europe to recognize a huge swath of Central Africaroughly the same territory as the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congoas his personal property. Rather than control the Congo as a colony, as other European powers did throughout Africa, Leopold privately owned the region. 657, 660, 662). . Morel, E. D. (1968). Did this woman die because her genitals were cut? George Washington Williams: A Biography. Leopold II implemented a forced-labour system in the Congo that was quickly copied by other European colonial powers. They were a newly independent country . In 1885 he proclaimed the existence of the misnamed tat Indpendant du Congo, or, as it was known in English, the Congo Free State, with himself the King-Sovereign. However, he added, "since history teaches that colonies are useful, that they play a great part in that which makes up the power and prosperity of states, let us strive to get one in our turn."[4]. Brill. Benedetto, Robert, ed. In the early 1890s, Leopold's private African army, the Force Publique (Public Force), drove the powerful Muslim slave traders out of the Congo. Encyclopedia.com. Harper & Row. Our editors will review what youve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Leopold then used the treaties to convince other Western colonial powers that he had legal right to the Congo River basin, an area more than fifty times the size of Belgium. Flament, F., et al. London, Curzon Press, p.27. Ewans, Martin (2002). Many women hostages were raped and a significant number starved to death. In his novella Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, who spent six months in the Congo in 1890 as a steamboat officer, gives a searing picture of the brutal and voracious European quest for Congo ivory. To prove that he had not wasted bulletsor, worse yet, saved them for use in a mutinyfor each bullet expended, a Congolese soldier of the Force Publique had to present to his white officer the severed hand of a rebel killed. The bloodiest single episode in Africa's colonization took place in the center of the continent in the large territory, known as the Congo. The largest mutiny involved three thousand troops and an equal number of auxiliaries and porters, and continued for three years. King Leopold's legacy of DR Congo violence. King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Nzansu, a chief in the region near the great Congo River rapids, led rebels who killed a hated colonial official and pillaged several state posts, although they carefully spared the homes of nearby Swedish missionaries. Many more suffered from disease and torture. Presenting himself as a philanthropist eager to bring the benefits of Christianity, Western civilization, and commerce to African nativesa guise that he perpetuated for many yearsLeopold hosted an international conference of explorers and geographers at the royal palace in Brussels in 1876. The secret mine that hid the Nazis' stolen treasure. A hundred lashes of the chicotte, a not infrequent punishment, could be fatal. National Geographic Headquarters 1145 17th Street NW Washington, DC 20036. 13(May 15). New York: Africana Publishing Company, 1986. In two ways the Congo's rubber boom had lasting impact beyond the territory itself. oliviall Answer: Since the consequences of the scheme in the Congo could too easily be blamed on one man who could comfortably be targeted because he did not serve a great power, a Leopold-focused foreign uproar. Because his only son had predeceased him, Leopolds nephew Albert I succeeded to the throne. ThoughtCo, Jun. In 1853 he married Marie-Henriette, daughter of the Austrian archduke Joseph, palatine of Hungary, and became king of the Belgians on his fathers death in December 1865. "I will dance if it comes down. Corrections? (Believing one people is more civilized than another is wrong.) Because the system's effects in the Congo could so easily be blamed on one man, who could safely be attacked because he did not represent a great power, an international outcry focused on Leopold. In articles in church magazines and in speeches throughout the United States and Europe on visits home, they described what they saw: Africans whipped to death, rivers full of corpses, and piles of severed handsa detail that quickly seared itself on the world's imagination. Why did King Leopold give up the Congo? When Stanley returned to Europe in 1878, he had not only found Dr. Livingstone (an event remembered to this day), resolved the last great mystery of African exploration, and ruined his health: he had also opened the heart of tropical Africa up to the outside world. Statues of Leopold II should now be housed in museums to teach Belgian history, suggests Mireille-Tsheusi Robert, director of anti-racism NGO Bamko Cran. Ed. If the estimates from varied sources of a 50 percent toll in King Leopold's Congo are correct, how many people does this mean? L'tat libre du Congo: Paradis perdu. Meanwhile, Leopold had already begun the job of persuading first the United Livingstone had not been heard from in several years and was, in fact, exploring the upper reaches of a great navigable inland river called the Lualaba, which Livingstone hoped was connected to the Nile, but which turned out to be the upper Congo. Unlike previous European nations that spread their influence over The newly named Belgian Congo remained a colony until the Democratic Republic of Congo gained its independence in 1960. When Leopold II died in 1909, he was buried to the sound of Belgians booing. It was too lucrative, for the price of rubber was still high. Throughout the tropics, people rushed to sow rubber trees, but those plants could take many years to reach maturity, and in the meantime there was money to be made wherever rubber grew wild. Why did Leopold want the Congo? Congo Free State Rubber Regime Atrocities. ." 2 volumes. Hochschild, Adam (October 6, 2005). For much of the journey he floated down the river, mapping its course for the first time and noting the many tributaries that, it turned out, comprised a network of navigable waterways more than 7,000 miles long. Soon after Stanley returned from the Congo, Leopold tried to recruit him. At the time, his father, Leopold I, was the King of Belgium. E. V. Sjblom of Sweden was one of the first and most outspoken missionaries in the Congo. Why did King Leopold colonize the Congo? For thousands of years, that territory had been conquered by nearby Netherlands, France, Germany, and Luxembourg. (Believing one people is more civilized than another is wrong.) Women and children were often taken hostage until men fulfilled a quota; during which time the women were raped repeatedly. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. In a TV debate this week, a former president of the Free University of Brussels, Herv Hasquin, argued there were "positive aspects" to colonisation, listing the health system, infrastructure, and primary education he said Belgium brought to Central Africa. June 11th, 2020. Updates? Having established a beachhead on the lower Congo, in 1883 Stanley set out upriver to extend Leopold's domain, employing his usual methods: negotiations with local chiefs buying sovereignty in exchange for bolts of cloth and trinkets; playing one tribe off another; and if need be, simply shooting an obstructive chief and negotiating with his cowed successor instead. Stanley, still hopeful for British backing, brushed him off. Many of the surrounding colonies also had rain forests rich in wild rubberPortuguese-controlled northern Angola, the Cameroons under the Germans, and the French Congo, part of French Equatorial Africa, across the Congo River. 1996 - 2023 National Geographic Society. Then, as they would be into the 21st century, most of the royal families of Europe were related. Discipline was harsh; reluctant military conscripts, disobedient porters, and villagers who failed to gather enough rubber all fell victim to the notorious chicotte, a whip made of sun-dried hippopotamus hide with razor-sharp edges. Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA). I Have a Dream 2023 . European Atrocity, African Catastrophe: Leopold II, the Congo Free State and Its Aftermath. In Peter Forbath's words, Leopold was: A tall, imposing man enjoying a reputation for hedonistic sensuality, cunning intelligence (his father once described him as subtle and sly as a fox), overweening ambition, and personal ruthlessness. Belgian King Leopold II ruthlessly seized control of the African continent on February 5, 1885, establishing the Congo Free State as a . (1952). One by one the other great mysteries had been explored: Though the Congo had been one of the first to be attempted, it remained a mystery. There are at least 13 statues to Leopold II in Belgium, according to one crowd-sourced map, and numerous parks, squares and street names. Many classrooms still have Herg's famous cartoon book Tintin in the Congo, with its depictions of black people now commonly accepted as extremely racist. He built the Africa Museum in the grounds of his palace at Tervuren, with a "human zoo" in the grounds featuring 267 Congolese people as exhibits. Writing in the same year, R. P. Van Wing, a Belgian Jesuit missionary, estimated that the population of the Bakongo people, one of the territory's largest ethnic groups, had been reduced by two-thirds. The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The European colonization of Africa was one of the greatest and swiftest conquests in human history. Leopold II, King of the Belgiansas his coun, c. 1875 The only way to do that was through the use of terror. Archive pictures from Congo Free State document its violence and brutality. The iconic images to emerge from this terror, though, were the baskets full of smoked hands and the Congolese children who survived having a hand cut off. But numerous surviving records from the rubber-bearing land in the adjoining French Congo, which closely followed the model of the Leopoldian forced labor system, also suggest a population loss there of around 50 percent. Tippu Tip had raided 118 villages, killed 4,000 Africans, and, when Stanley reached his camp, had 2,300 slaves, mostly young women and children, in chains ready to transport halfway across the continent to the markets of Zanzibar. Read about our approach to external linking. The propensity for violence is . The history of Colonialism as a policy or practice go, THE CAUSE OF DECOLONIZATION In actuality, Leopold wanted to get his hands on Congo's natural resources. "Leopold II certainly does not deserve a statue in the public domain," agrees Bambi Ceuppens, scientific commissioner at the Africa Museum. At a Glance Most populous nation: Should India rejoice or panic? SCLC Formed How did King Leopold gain control of the Congo? They belonged to his five-year-old daughter, who was later killed when her village did not produce sufficient rubber. To avoid discovery, materials and workers were shipped in by various roundabout routes, and communications between Stanley and Leopold were entrusted to Colonel Maximilien Strauch. Dark Safari: The Life behind the Legend of Henry Morton Stanley. . Among those who weren't killed, many were punished by having a hand and/or foot amputated. "Everyone is waking up from a sleep, it's a reckoning with the past," explains Debora Kayembe, a Congolese human rights lawyer who has lived in Belgium. No one will ever know the precise figures, but, from all these causes, demographers estimate that between 1880 and 1920 the population of the Congo may have been slashed by up to 50 percent, from perhaps 20 million people at the beginning of that period to an estimated 10 million at the end. Furthermore, huge, uncounted numbers of Congolese fled the forced labor regime, but the only refuge to which they could escape was the depths of the rain forest, where there was little food and no shelter; travelers would discover their bones years later. Estimates suggest more than 50% died there. Brussels: Goemaere. Humankind will never know even the approximate toll with any certainty, but beyond any doubt what happened in the Congo was one of the great catastrophes of modern times. By that point he had made a huge profit from the territory, conservatively estimated as the equivalent of more than $1.1 billion in early twenty-first century terms. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. ." Civil rights leader In one of them, a letter to the U.S. Secretary of State, he used a phrase that was not commonly heard again until the Nuremberg trials more than fifty years later. As rubber prices soared, so did the quotas. Leopold (18351909) had ascended to the throne in 1865. Cookies collect information about your preferences and your devices and are used to make the site work as you expect it to, to understand how you interact with the site, and to show advertisements that are targeted to your interests. London: Heinemann. It was not until 1867 that the Congo was explored by Europeans, and even then it was not from the sea, but from the other side of the African continent. (Colonizing other peoples, regardless of the justification, is wrong. It is clearly understood that in this project there is no question of granting the slightest political power to the negros. This makeover of Leopold's image produced an amnesia that persisted for decades. One lucrative source of wild rubber was the Landolphia vines in the great Central African rainforest, and no one owned more of that area than Leopold. The rapids and falls, had they known it, extended for 220 miles (350km) inland, and the terrain close by the river was impassable, and remains so to this day. It was the world's only major colony owned by one man. "The rebels displayed a courage worthy of a better cause," (Flament et al., 1952, p. 417) acknowledged the army's official historywhich, remarkably, devoted fully one-quarter of its pages to the various campaigns against mutineers within the army's own ranks. EUROPEAN EFFORTS TO REINVENT OVERSEA, Kenyatta, Jomo 1891(? Shaloff, Stanley (1970). Leopold was an intelligent and ruthless man who wasn't afraid to lie or kill in order to expand Belgium's power. The colony in the Congo - the Congo Free State - was personal property for the Belgian king and there was little oversight over what happened there. "Civilisation" was at the core of Leopold II's pitch to European leaders in 1885 when they sliced up and allocated territories in what became known as the Scramble for Africa. For some years ivory was a principal source of the great wealth that Leopold and his associates drew from the new colony. Presenting himself as a philanthropist eager to bring the benefits of Christianity, Western civilization, and commerce to African nativesa guise that he perpetuated for many yearsLeopold hosted an international conference of explorers and geographers at the royal palace in Brussels in 1876. (1996). As he put it, he did not want to miss out on the opportunity of getting a slice of "this magnificent African cake." King . The king's stated goal was to bring civilization to the people of the Congo, an enormous region in Central Africa. King Leopold II was the ruler of the Congo Free State, and the King of Belgium. Forty years later virtually all of it had been transformed into European colonies, protectorates, or territories ruled by white settlers. At various times, he launched unsuccessful schemes to buy an Argentine province, to buy Borneo from the Dutch, rent the Philippines from Spain, or establish colonies in China, Vietnam, Japan, or the Pacific islands. Because of his actions King Leopold should be condemned as a criminal for his exploration and abuse to the Congo land and people. They write new content and verify and edit content received from contributors. Morel soon quit his job and in short order turned himself into the greatest British investigative journalist of his time. Belgium took over the colony in 1908 and it was not until 1960 that the Republic of the Congo was established, after a fight for independence. [5] None of these schemes came anywhere near fruition: the government of Belgium resolutely resisted all Leopold's suggestions, seeing the acquisition of a colony as a good way to spend large amounts of money for little or no return. Shocked by recent local census statistics that showed less than one child per woman, the official Commission Institue pour la Protection des Indignes made a similar reckoning in 1919. In Britain he founded the Congo Reform Association, and affiliated groups sprang up in the United States and other countries. The couple's first son, Louis Philippe, died in infancy prior to Leopold II's birth. Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Millions of Congolese then found themselves suffering near-famine, which made them vulnerable to diseases they otherwise might have survived. In order to enforce the near impossible rubber quotas imposed on villages, agents and officials called on the Free States army, the Force Publique. In return European leaders, gathered at the Berlin Conference, granted him 2m sq km (770,000 sq miles) to forge a personal colony where he was free to do as he liked. Leopold financed development projects with money loaned to him from the Belgian government. You can find out more about our use, change your default settings, and withdraw your consent at any time with effect for the future by visiting Cookies Settings, which can also be found in the footer of the site. The effects were devastating. But taking the monument away does not solve the problem of racism, she believes, while creating one museum devoted to the statues would not be useful either. Amidst all of this, some of the best of people was also seen, in the bravery and resilience of ordinary Congolese men and women who resisted in small and large ways, and the passionate efforts of several American and European missionaries and activists to bring about reform. Morel, in his mid-twenties at the time, noticed that when his company's ships arrived from the Congo, they were filled to the hatch with enormously valuable cargoes of rubber and ivory. Retrieved April 27, 2023 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/king-leopold-ii-and-congo. Although Stanley is best known as the man who found Livingstone, his trip across the Congo basin was the greater feat of exploration and had far more impact on history. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. Repeated attempts to travel overland were repulsed with heavy casualties, accidents, conflicts with natives, and, above all, disease saw large and well-equipped expeditions got no further than 40 miles (64km) or so past the westernmost rapid, the legendary Cauldron of Hell. Belgium's education minister announced this week that secondary schools would teach colonial history from next year. Having found the new ruler of the upper Congo, Stanley negotiated an agreement with Tippu Tip to allow him to build his final river station just below Stanley Falls (which prevented vessels sailing further upstream). He was a veteran of the American Civil War, a historian, a Baptist minister, a lawyer, and the first black member of the Ohio state legislature. The king of Belgium wanted the Congo for the vast amounts of wild rubber it held, and to establish a colony as he thought kings were supposed to do. Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. For a dozen years, from 1901 to 1913, working sometimes fourteen to sixteen hours a day, he devoted his formidable energy and skill to putting the story of forced labor in King Leopold's Congo on the world's front pages. 2 volumes. Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.

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