King Leopold Essay

This essay has a total of 309 words and 2 pages.

King Leopold

In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium
seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River.
Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its
people, and ultimately slashed its population by ten million--all the while shrewdly
cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes
eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century, in which
everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated. King Leopold's
Ghost is the haunting account of a megalomaniac of monstrous proportions, a man as
cunning, charming, and cruel as any of the great Shakespearean villains. It is also the
deeply moving portrait of those who fought Leopold: a brave handful of missionaries,
travelers, and young idealists who went to Africa for work or adventure and unexpectedly
found themselves witnesses to a holocaust. Adam Hochschild brings this largely untold
story alive with the wit and skill of a Barbara Tuchman. Like her, he knows that history
often provides a far richer cast of characters than any novelist could invent. Chief among
them is Edmund Morel, a young British shipping agent who went on to lead the international
crusade against Leopold. Another hero of this tale, the Irish patriot Roger Casement,
ended his life on a London gallows. Two courageous black Americans, George Washington
Williams and William Sheppard, risked much to bring evidence of the Congo atrocities to
the outside world. Sailing into the middle of the story was a young Congo River steamboat
officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming above them all, the duplicitous billionaire King
Leopold II. With great power and compassion, King Leopold's Ghost will brand the tragedy
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