King Leopold's Ghost Book Review

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Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999). Review submitted by: Abigail Wagoner History 103, Sec. 216 January 31, 2014 Adam Hochschild, the author of King Leopold’s Ghost, is a well-known writer whose main job is that of journalism. However, when Hochschild was a college student, he spent time in South Africa which led him to begin writing books about difficult periods in history. He has since then written five books and, in 2012, received an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. King Leopold’s Ghost, which deals with the Belgian colony of the Congo, and the horrors of Leopold’s reign, is Hochschild’s most notable and famous novel. Throughout the book, it is evident that Hochschild thoroughly researched the subject material about which he wrote, particularly the beginning of the Belgian entrance into the Congo. He takes time to delve into the explorations of Henry Stanley that were funded by King Leopold and explain how and why Leopold wanted to use Stanley to gain access to the Congo. Hochschild reveals that Stanley’s true purpose in going to the Congo was to build roads that the king would use to transport the riches of the African heartland, but that “Leopold was intent that they be seen as nothing more than philanthropy.” (14) This was typical of European ideology at the time that Europeans would enter African nations at will and justify their presence with the notion that they were bringing culture to a dark, savage land. Therefore, while one may see Hochschild as harsh and blunt when discussing the dealings of King Leopold, he is actually accurately portraying the common mindset of the time: Europeans believed they had a right to the land and people of Africa. King Leopold’s Ghost is divided into two major themes

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