posts 1 - 15 of 25
freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 288

Reading: Excerpt from Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost (1999), pp. 129ff, 158ff (Several of you read this book for your summer reading. Yay you! If you are one of those folks, take a look at these pages for a reminder; if you are not one of the summer reading folks, make sure you read all of this)


"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much."


—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1902)


I’d say Conrad’s quote is….an understatement (to say the least)? The British writer Joseph Conrad, who wrote the novel Heart of Darkness (it’s a complicated and not-uncontroversial novel and certainly a book that you all MUST read before you die, if you have not already read it for English) after traveling up the Kongo River in 1890, said about the people of Africa that yesterday’s “savages” were “tomorrow’s paragons of civilization.”


The people living in the Kongo were most certainly not savages. But their history was profoundly affected and, sadly, reshaped by western intervention. The Kingdom of Kongo was founded c. 1390 CE by KiKongo speaking people (Congo with a C is the result of Portuguese translation.). Most Congolese today speak one of the Bantu language variants. The kingdom reached its height in the mid-17th century but was most definitely affected by corruption, feuds among royal families, and the trade of people to be enslaved. Its center was originally the city of Mbanza, located in what today is (thanks to Portuguese colonial ambitions) Angola. Many members of the royal family and the nobility in Kongo converted to Christianity due to their interaction with Portuguese explorers and (later) missionaries. Kongolese involvement with the slave trade began with the Portuguese demands for slaves and the Kongolese king would use foreign-born (non-Kongolese) people to fulfill the Portuguese demands. Internal strife within the country—separatist groups from different royal families (such as the Soyo)--led to the royal family bartering slaves for foreign help in suppressing rebellions Ultimately the country split in two in the mid-1600s.


Over the course of that history and continuing today, the people of the Kongo created rich artistic and musical traditions; to look at some of this spectacular art, take a look here (and yes, it’s surprising that there’s a large collection of Congolese art sitting in …..Iowa!) as well as here (for more recent masks created by Congolese artists) and to listen to traditional Congolese music (which continues today), check this out.


When the British abolished the slave trade in the early 19th century, the Kingdom of Kongo had to rely on other exports and they turned to trade in ivory and rubber. Needless to say, this made the kingdom very attractive to nations looking to establish colonies to provide them with economic wealth through natural resources.


King Leopold of Belgium saw the continent as “this magnificent African cake.” The imperial ambitions of Europe were achieved by carving up this massive “African cake,” especially during the orgy-like division of the continent at the 1884-1885 Conference of Berlin. No doubt you touched on this at least a little bit—at least I hope that you did—in World History II/AP World.


So in your post, please consider these questions and respond thoughtfully:


  1. What possible justification can there be for colonial control over any nation?
  2. Are there benefits to colonialism? What does the colonialist nation in charge get from the “arrangement”? What does the colonized nation get from the arrangement?
  3. And is what is described in the reading from Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost indicative of the extremes of colonialism, the perils of colonialism, or the norm? (The more you are detailed here in your response, the more it’s clear that you got something meaningful out of this reading.)
  4. Finally, the broadest questions: In your view, what short- and long-term effects did the colonization of Africa have on the development of nations on the continent and their status today? And what responsibility, if any, do the colonizing nations have for their former colonial subjects and the nations that emerged after colonialism ended?

(And by the way, lest you think this is only an African issue, think about all the nations in Asia and the Middle East, not to mention Latin and South America that were once colonial subjects! And if you think about it, we, here in the US, were too.)


Please be sure to post on this in a timely fashion and be certain to reference specifics from class AND from Hochschild’s magisterial book.


Also, please be sure that at the close of your post, you (1) pose a question about this issue for the next reader AND (2) reply to the question posed by the person who posted before you did!



Yiddeon
Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 17

Colonizing the Kongo Post

  1. Many colonizers search for justification. They twist the ideas of Charles Darwin to fit their needs. This can be seen in the social Darwinism movements and later the Eugenics movement. Other nations justify their actions by claiming that they are helping the people that they subjugate. They use the ideas of the White Man’s burden to legitimize their actions. In truth, there is no good reason to colonize another country. It has only ever resulted in bloodshed and hampered the growth in that country both technologically and economically.
  2. There are many benefits to colonialism. Most if not all of these benefits are for the colonizer. They get free access to take advantage of their new territory. They can steal all of their products and force them to produce what they want, as the British did in India. They can take people from those territories and force them into the military like all the countries in WWI did. They can take natural recourses from them thus preventing any technology in those countries and even after the occupiers leave setting that country back decades. They can send unwanted people to those colonise as the Britsh did to Australia filling up the continent with most people that did not pay their debts. There are numerous more ways that a colonized country can be taken advantage of by an occupying power. The colonized country gets protection from getting colonized by another country but not much more than that.
  3. The horrible events during Leopold’s reign. They show how a controlling country can exploit the people under their control. The numerous tragedies that happened there are due to the same greed that drives colonization in all forms. This form of exploitation is a part of all colonization efforts. The specific details might vary but there were similar systems used all around the world at various times for various reasons. The system of quotas and forced labor camps are common, but the lies that were told during the colonization of the Congo make it maybe even more evil. Built on the lies that Leopold was trying to end the slave trade it only took another form with plantations still being present and people still being worked to the bone. This type of colonization is a common occurrence and many of the crimes committed are things that you can see across history, but it is also a microcosm of greed and exploitation that has not been seen at those extremes often in history.
  4. In Environmental Science we learned about the four types of countries. These are largely based on population but their names have interesting meanings. There are pre-industrial, transitional, industrial, and post-industrial. The majority of the countries in Africa, the Middle East, and some parts of Asia, with some exceptions, are in the pre-industrial or transitional periods. This means that they have high birth rates, high mortality rates, and the majority of people die young. These are troubling trends. Why do these countries that are hundreds of miles away from each other with separate cultures, governments, and economies all share these trends? Many reasons could cause this, but something that many of these places have in common is the fact that in the not-so-distant past they were colonized. So this is the way that countries’ colonization has affected countries over the long term. They have been set back as compared to what they could have been. Over the short term, it is more obvious what happened to these countries. Many experience famines like in India that the colonizers do nothing to help with. Many have slave labor or something bordering it. Many have crimes against native populations that leave scars on the history of both the colonized and colonizers. It is apparent that colonization has adverse effects on people over the short term and over the long term. It is also apparent who caused these. The colonizers. It is therefore part of the colonizer’s job to try and right the wrongs that they have committed. At the very least they need to allow the refugees from these countries that they had a hand in ruining into their countries.

Question: How has the US helped and hurt various nations through its acts of imperialism?

dollarcoffee
Boston, MA
Posts: 27

Personally, I don’t think there is justification for colonialism, and I think most people at this point in time would agree with me, but until about a century ago, many people, specifically Europeans, justified their colonialism through religion and racism. Like we learned earlier in the year, many Europeans and white Americans believed in Eugenics, specifically that the “white race” was superior to all other races and that it was their right to take over the world. Obviously, this isn’t true, but it was used to justify colonialism, along with kingdoms who wanted to spread Christianity, believing it was the only valid religion and that it was their duty to spread it to all nations.


There really are no long term benefits of colonialism for the colonized. Although colonizers do sometimes end up investing money in infrastructure, like railroads or trade routes, these benefit the colonizers at first, and don’t outweigh the immeasurable long term damage colonialism causes to colonized peoples. Leopold’s Ghost shows that colonizers get a lot of monetary gain out of their “arrangements” through trade deals with joint-stock companies similar to the East India Company.


I think Leopold’s Ghost shows the norms of colonialism. Although it is not exactly similar to how countries have colonized other nations in the past, I think it demonstrates how colonizers refuse to acknowledge the land is already occupied- like how Leopold just came in and established a nation, not acknowledging there was already a nation there before him. It also demonstrates how the spread of religion is used as justification of colonialism, in how a Catholic church was established. I also think this showed the norm of colonialism in the enslavement of the native peoples to harvest natural resources. In this case it was rubber, but in other scenarios, like when Columbus colonized Latin America, it was other natural resources.


Short term, colonialism affected African nations through things like famine and disease. When Native Africans were exposed to new diseases, and forced to work with very little food, like the people of Congo, they experienced famine and massive death rates due to horrible living conditions. Long term, colonialism has also had disastrous effects, on not only the people but also the land. Environmental degradation is caused when the ecosystem in an environment is disrupted, and can be seen in many parts of Africa after colonizing nations have come in and overused the natural resources, or planted the same things over and over for many years, which is not good for soil. Colonizers, specifically the British, also played on ethnic and cultural tensions to help keep groups of people from banding together, so they could remain in power, and ethnic tensions still remain today. Africa is still not seen as a world power the same way as Europe is because the continent is still healing from being colonized, and so it is not regarded the same way on the world stage, which is based in colonialism. I think nations have a responsibility to give reparations to the nations they colonized. These nations and their peoples became incredibly wealthy off of the backs of the people they colonized, and the nations they occupied are still recovering today, and seeing the negative effects.

My question is: how do we see the effects of colonialism in South American nations today?

dollarcoffee
Boston, MA
Posts: 27

Originally posted by Yiddeon on January 31, 2022 13:12

  1. Many colonizers search for justification. They twist the ideas of Charles Darwin to fit their needs. This can be seen in the social Darwinism movements and later the Eugenics movement. Other nations justify their actions by claiming that they are helping the people that they subjugate. They use the ideas of the White Man’s burden to legitimize their actions. In truth, there is no good reason to colonize another country. It has only ever resulted in bloodshed and hampered the growth in that country both technologically and economically.
  2. There are many benefits to colonialism. Most if not all of these benefits are for the colonizer. They get free access to take advantage of their new territory. They can steal all of their products and force them to produce what they want, as the British did in India. They can take people from those territories and force them into the military like all the countries in WWI did. They can take natural recourses from them thus preventing any technology in those countries and even after the occupiers leave setting that country back decades. They can send unwanted people to those colonise as the Britsh did to Australia filling up the continent with most people that did not pay their debts. There are numerous more ways that a colonized country can be taken advantage of by an occupying power. The colonized country gets protection from getting colonized by another country but not much more than that.
  3. The horrible events during Leopold’s reign. They show how a controlling country can exploit the people under their control. The numerous tragedies that happened there are due to the same greed that drives colonization in all forms. This form of exploitation is a part of all colonization efforts. The specific details might vary but there were similar systems used all around the world at various times for various reasons. The system of quotas and forced labor camps are common, but the lies that were told during the colonization of the Congo make it maybe even more evil. Built on the lies that Leopold was trying to end the slave trade it only took another form with plantations still being present and people still being worked to the bone. This type of colonization is a common occurrence and many of the crimes committed are things that you can see across history, but it is also a microcosm of greed and exploitation that has not been seen at those extremes often in history.
  4. In Environmental Science we learned about the four types of countries. These are largely based on population but their names have interesting meanings. There are pre-industrial, transitional, industrial, and post-industrial. The majority of the countries in Africa, the Middle East, and some parts of Asia, with some exceptions, are in the pre-industrial or transitional periods. This means that they have high birth rates, high mortality rates, and the majority of people die young. These are troubling trends. Why do these countries that are hundreds of miles away from each other with separate cultures, governments, and economies all share these trends? Many reasons could cause this, but something that many of these places have in common is the fact that in the not-so-distant past they were colonized. So this is the way that countries’ colonization has affected countries over the long term. They have been set back as compared to what they could have been. Over the short term, it is more obvious what happened to these countries. Many experience famines like in India that the colonizers do nothing to help with. Many have slave labor or something bordering it. Many have crimes against native populations that leave scars on the history of both the colonized and colonizers. It is apparent that colonization has adverse effects on people over the short term and over the long term. It is also apparent who caused these. The colonizers. It is therefore part of the colonizer’s job to try and right the wrongs that they have committed. At the very least they need to allow the refugees from these countries that they had a hand in ruining into their countries.

Question: How has the US helped and hurt various nations through its acts of imperialism?

I think US imperialism is both good and bad. Although it has been negative in various ways, it has also brought about the spread of global technologies, economic boosts, and the spread of new ideas, which cross cultural contact does traditionally bring. I think it has been bad in other ways though, since sometimes the US has gotten involved for their own gain, and not for the benefit of the other nations, which is detrimental.

Boat1924
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

The Conquest of the Earth

The only justification there can be used to justify colonial control over a region is the belief that the colonizing powers are stepping in to help the local populations. A colonizing nation can simply push the belief that they are intervening in the country’s affairs and taking control of the government to help the country develop and enter the global market. They can help the country by centralizing the national government so that the government, using funds procured by the colonizing power, to build roads, canals, energy producing factories and other essential pieces of infrastructure that can help raise the standard of living in the country. While Colonialism is overall terrible and terribly destructive and ruinous to the local population, the practice can help develop and centralize a country. Colonialism forces the Colonizing nation to either centralize the local nation or force the local tribes closer together so that they can make the local governments and industries more efficient so that they can produce profit and products at a quicker rate. In the arrangement, Colonial nations are able to feast upon the local national resources, and local populations in order to help fuel their own industries and economies. They are able to completely control and change the colonial nation's economy, so that it only works to provide and support the motherland’s economy and well being. A colonial power can take control and use a wide array of resources from the colony from natural resources, such as coal, oil, and ivory, and timber, to other sorts of resources, such as human labor and manpower. While the Colonial nations gain the most from the colonial arrangement, the colonized nation also somewhat benefits from the arrangement. Once a nation is colonized, the colonial powers often invest lots of money into developing and centralizing the state. They use their capital to not only develop industrial factories and warehouses to help support and efficientize the industries that they are using the colonized nation to make a profit on, but they also fund projects that aim to develop and “civilized” nation, such as schools, roads, canals and other important works that help raise the standard of living in the country. While these developments do help the colonized nation and are the main benefits of the “arrangement”, the benefits do not outweigh the negatives. Colonization simply works to subjugate an independent and proud nation and its citizens, so that the colonizing nations can abuse the country and its people in order to make vast sums of profit for its people. I believe that the reading from “King Leopold’s Ghost” is indicative of the norms of Colonialism. While colonizing powers may try to paint the picture that they are helping the people and trying to develop the nation for the good of the native population, the truth of the situation is they are simply exploiting the locals for their own personal gain. The colonizers do not care about the wellbeing and the success of the local populations, rather they simply care about their resources they steal from the country and the profits they derive from using these resources. They will do anything to plunder the country in order to make any ounce of profit for their own gain, including brutalizing the local population and forcing them into servitude and slave like working systems. While the book may present a few extremes of colonialism, the overall treatment of the local congolese populations and the force King Leopold used to force them to collect rubber and ivory from the jungles of the congo is indicative of the treatment of other locals by other colonial powers. The Effects of Colonialism on Africa are seen both in the short term and the long term. In the short term, Colonialism devastated local populations. The arrangement led to millions of local individuals being abused and controlled in order to maximize profits. The colonizing nations simply did not care about the treatment of the locals, instead prioritizing the industries that generated a profit for the empire. This carelessness led to millions of local individuals being killed and mutilated all for the need of profit. In the long term Colonialism stifled the industrialization of the country and the centralization of the government and populations. While colonialism led to some developments and industrialization being introduced and created in the country, the process of industrialization was not fully supported and often suppressed by the colonizing nation, in order to keep their power and their industries.


Q; Do you believe that any benefits have resulted from European colonialism, or the United States imperialism?

Peverley
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Colonization of the Kongo Post

I do not think that there are really any legitimate justifications for colonialism, because regardless of initial intent, in almost every colonial attempt, the ruling nation has greatly benefitted at the expense of the colonized. However at the time of the Berlin conference and the conquest of the Kongo, the idea of converting people to Christianity and missionary was seen as a noble pursuit, and quite frankly the countries involved did not really care about the places they were invading, and were thinking about the benefits to their own countries and how their people and governments would benefit. An argument can also be made for wealthy countries intervening in places that are unstable, unsafe, or are failing economically, however in this scenario foreign rule really should not be a permanent solution, but rather a helping hand to restore peace and prosperity to a less fortunate country. This appears a noble undertaking, however, as we have seen time and time again throughout history, intervention often leads to total control and a government that is loyal to the “savior” nation.


To this extent, I think colonialism only has benefits for the colonizing country, and there isn’t normally even any concept of an “arrangement” because the colonizers normally decide they want to take control of a certain place and just do it. Even if a formal agreement is decided upon and positive things happen while a country is under colonial rule, once the larger power pulls out or the arrangement is somehow altered, a power vacuum is often created which can lead to dictatorships and civil war, which has happened a number of times in Africa and South America.


Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is unquestionably about the perils of colonialism, and the extent to which the world can be deceived by a single person into being blind to horrifying atrocities that are taking place. Although there have been numerous cruel colonizing efforts, Leoplold’s Congo is an example of how the most brutal extent of colonialism begins in the “normal” way of colonization. Leopold was able to fool the world for years into thinking that he was ruling the Kongo for missionary purposes and to aid in the westernization of Africa, when in reality, he took advantage of the Kongolese people and the resources of their land. He charmed many international leaders into supporting him and he was able to keep up a persona of charity and kindness when in reality he murdered millions and maimed and deformed countless outhers. He brutally enslaved them to harvest rubber, primarily, and took the riches for not Europe, not even Belgium, but for his own personal enrichment. This case is one of the most horrifying colonization efforts in human history and Leopold’s brutality is infamous for showing mercy to none. He used his Force Publique to keep the Kongolese people under his iron rule and would cut off the limbs of his slaves if quotas were not met. He used human beings as currency and prizes to reward his white officers and African leaders who aided in his conquests. He took everything that he could from the Kongo and left them with nothing in the end. He was only discovered after shipping unconsitencies were discovered and that it would be impossible for him to be exporting so much rubber without the use of slave labor, which he explicitly denied doing. This example of colonialism is certainly extreme, but what the Belgian Congo has in common with many other imperial efforts, is that it left permanent trauma in the place that was colonized.


I think in the short term in Africa, populations were decimated, resources were wiped out, and families were separated. However, in the long term, the entire continent was destabilized because European nations drew borders that were never meant to exist and separated and combined peoples with no regard for tribal affiliations and identities. Africa was not uncivilized, but was rather a different kind of advanced civilization than what the western world was accustomed to. Many were nomadic tribes, others had sprawling empires, but most importantly, there were clear distinctions between tribes and peoples that the Europeans paid no heed to when they carved up Africa and split the continent up between global superpowers. In some cases, warring groups were pushed together, and years later this led to tragedies like the Rwandan genocide that grew from tensions between different ethnic groups living in the same area. I think that some responsibility should be taken for destabilizing much of an entire continent, however it is difficult to find any solutions that could make up for what imperialist nations did. In many ways the damage has been done and further intervention in the name of “helping” might even cause more damage. On the other hand, these countries have somewhat of a moral obligation to step into dangerous political lamdscacpes that they were the cause of, and help innocent people who are falling victim to terror and brutal dicatorships. I think that it is a very difficult balance to find and that it should be a topic of conversation among world leaders of how best to help countries affected by colonialism without becoming over involved again.


Q: Do you believe that any benefits have resulted from European colonialism, or the United States imperialism?


Peverley
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Originally posted by Boat1924 on February 03, 2022 09:38

The only justification there can be used to justify colonial control over a region is the belief that the colonizing powers are stepping in to help the local populations. A colonizing nation can simply push the belief that they are intervening in the country’s affairs and taking control of the government to help the country develop and enter the global market. They can help the country by centralizing the national government so that the government, using funds procured by the colonizing power, to build roads, canals, energy producing factories and other essential pieces of infrastructure that can help raise the standard of living in the country. While Colonialism is overall terrible and terribly destructive and ruinous to the local population, the practice can help develop and centralize a country. Colonialism forces the Colonizing nation to either centralize the local nation or force the local tribes closer together so that they can make the local governments and industries more efficient so that they can produce profit and products at a quicker rate. In the arrangement, Colonial nations are able to feast upon the local national resources, and local populations in order to help fuel their own industries and economies. They are able to completely control and change the colonial nation's economy, so that it only works to provide and support the motherland’s economy and well being. A colonial power can take control and use a wide array of resources from the colony from natural resources, such as coal, oil, and ivory, and timber, to other sorts of resources, such as human labor and manpower. While the Colonial nations gain the most from the colonial arrangement, the colonized nation also somewhat benefits from the arrangement. Once a nation is colonized, the colonial powers often invest lots of money into developing and centralizing the state. They use their capital to not only develop industrial factories and warehouses to help support and efficientize the industries that they are using the colonized nation to make a profit on, but they also fund projects that aim to develop and “civilized” nation, such as schools, roads, canals and other important works that help raise the standard of living in the country. While these developments do help the colonized nation and are the main benefits of the “arrangement”, the benefits do not outweigh the negatives. Colonization simply works to subjugate an independent and proud nation and its citizens, so that the colonizing nations can abuse the country and its people in order to make vast sums of profit for its people. I believe that the reading from “King Leopold’s Ghost” is indicative of the norms of Colonialism. While colonizing powers may try to paint the picture that they are helping the people and trying to develop the nation for the good of the native population, the truth of the situation is they are simply exploiting the locals for their own personal gain. The colonizers do not care about the wellbeing and the success of the local populations, rather they simply care about their resources they steal from the country and the profits they derive from using these resources. They will do anything to plunder the country in order to make any ounce of profit for their own gain, including brutalizing the local population and forcing them into servitude and slave like working systems. While the book may present a few extremes of colonialism, the overall treatment of the local congolese populations and the force King Leopold used to force them to collect rubber and ivory from the jungles of the congo is indicative of the treatment of other locals by other colonial powers. The Effects of Colonialism on Africa are seen both in the short term and the long term. In the short term, Colonialism devastated local populations. The arrangement led to millions of local individuals being abused and controlled in order to maximize profits. The colonizing nations simply did not care about the treatment of the locals, instead prioritizing the industries that generated a profit for the empire. This carelessness led to millions of local individuals being killed and mutilated all for the need of profit. In the long term Colonialism stifled the industrialization of the country and the centralization of the government and populations. While colonialism led to some developments and industrialization being introduced and created in the country, the process of industrialization was not fully supported and often suppressed by the colonizing nation, in order to keep their power and their industries.


Q; Do you believe that any benefits have resulted from European colonialism, or the United States imperialism?

A: I think that there have been some economic and overall safety and security benefits for some countries under colonial rule or imperial influence, however in the long run I think it leads to more instability. I think it can be a good short-term solution if a country is in dire need of resources or support, as the US and major European countries have practically infinite resources. But if power dynamics shifts in any significant manner after a very long time under foreign rule, then extremist groups can form, dictatorships can spring up and dangerous individuals and groups are able to take power.

Blue terrier
Posts: 23

There are no possible justifications for the colonization of a group of people. None. Historically, colonizers and countries that colonize search for possible justifications, justifications that they come up with themselves and actually wholeheartedly believe in. We can see this through movements like social darwinism and eugenics. They often place their justifications in completely untrue and broken social science movements. The reality is that there is no possible justification for colonization. There is no justification for a one sided deal on the global scale, where one group receives hundreds of years of death, bloodshed, slavery, forced labor, violence, and much more.

The benefits to colonialism are unsurprisingly one sided. The colonizers often get new land to set up a new empire, in turn giving the leaders more power and legitimacy. Also, a result of this new land is money, which comes from this new workforce of colonized people that are forced to work for little or nothing in return. The colonizer becomes richer, more powerful, and more expansive. Colonization also serves as a positive feedback loop for the colonizer, as with more land comes more money, and then more land and more money, and so on. As for the colonized, the story is the opposite. Colonization often leads to the decimation of populations, as populations die from anything from starvation, disease, and blatant mass murder. The colonized also experiences hundreds of years of political and economic instability and we still see these effects today. For example, a quick google search would show that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the 5th poorest country in the world, which is no coincidence when thinking about the country’s history of colonization and imperialism. Further, colonization often leads to the erase of entire cultures and groups of people. Winston Chruchill once said, “history is written by victors,” and this could not be more true for the history of colonization.

King Leopold’s story and his exploitation of the Congo is a norm of colonialism and it is certainly indicative of the perils of colonialism. The exploitative labor systems, slavery, and quotas set up by King Leopold in teh Congo are not unique to Leopold. In fact, most examples of colonialism throughout history feature some sort of exploitative labor system. So Leopold is a norm in that regard. The brutality and severe nature in which Leopold carried out these labor systems are also a norm, and the stories that we read in King Leopold’s Ghost are shocking, but unfortunately normal. For example, these horror stories sound very familiar to the exploitation of Native Americans in the early United States colonies. This extreme violence was not unique to King Leopold and his destruction of the Congo.

As discussed before, colonization had indescribable effects on the continent of Africa. Colonization has left Africa economically, politically, and socially unstable. It is no coincidence that Africa is considered the poorest continent on earth, and that 40% of Africans live below the poverty line. Africa today is a causation, not a correlation, of colonization.

How do we make sure that the right history is being told about colonization, and not just the history of the victors?

Blue terrier
Posts: 23

Originally posted by Peverley on February 06, 2022 16:46

I do not think that there are really any legitimate justifications for colonialism, because regardless of initial intent, in almost every colonial attempt, the ruling nation has greatly benefitted at the expense of the colonized. However at the time of the Berlin conference and the conquest of the Kongo, the idea of converting people to Christianity and missionary was seen as a noble pursuit, and quite frankly the countries involved did not really care about the places they were invading, and were thinking about the benefits to their own countries and how their people and governments would benefit. An argument can also be made for wealthy countries intervening in places that are unstable, unsafe, or are failing economically, however in this scenario foreign rule really should not be a permanent solution, but rather a helping hand to restore peace and prosperity to a less fortunate country. This appears a noble undertaking, however, as we have seen time and time again throughout history, intervention often leads to total control and a government that is loyal to the “savior” nation.


To this extent, I think colonialism only has benefits for the colonizing country, and there isn’t normally even any concept of an “arrangement” because the colonizers normally decide they want to take control of a certain place and just do it. Even if a formal agreement is decided upon and positive things happen while a country is under colonial rule, once the larger power pulls out or the arrangement is somehow altered, a power vacuum is often created which can lead to dictatorships and civil war, which has happened a number of times in Africa and South America.


Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is unquestionably about the perils of colonialism, and the extent to which the world can be deceived by a single person into being blind to horrifying atrocities that are taking place. Although there have been numerous cruel colonizing efforts, Leoplold’s Congo is an example of how the most brutal extent of colonialism begins in the “normal” way of colonization. Leopold was able to fool the world for years into thinking that he was ruling the Kongo for missionary purposes and to aid in the westernization of Africa, when in reality, he took advantage of the Kongolese people and the resources of their land. He charmed many international leaders into supporting him and he was able to keep up a persona of charity and kindness when in reality he murdered millions and maimed and deformed countless outhers. He brutally enslaved them to harvest rubber, primarily, and took the riches for not Europe, not even Belgium, but for his own personal enrichment. This case is one of the most horrifying colonization efforts in human history and Leopold’s brutality is infamous for showing mercy to none. He used his Force Publique to keep the Kongolese people under his iron rule and would cut off the limbs of his slaves if quotas were not met. He used human beings as currency and prizes to reward his white officers and African leaders who aided in his conquests. He took everything that he could from the Kongo and left them with nothing in the end. He was only discovered after shipping unconsitencies were discovered and that it would be impossible for him to be exporting so much rubber without the use of slave labor, which he explicitly denied doing. This example of colonialism is certainly extreme, but what the Belgian Congo has in common with many other imperial efforts, is that it left permanent trauma in the place that was colonized.


I think in the short term in Africa, populations were decimated, resources were wiped out, and families were separated. However, in the long term, the entire continent was destabilized because European nations drew borders that were never meant to exist and separated and combined peoples with no regard for tribal affiliations and identities. Africa was not uncivilized, but was rather a different kind of advanced civilization than what the western world was accustomed to. Many were nomadic tribes, others had sprawling empires, but most importantly, there were clear distinctions between tribes and peoples that the Europeans paid no heed to when they carved up Africa and split the continent up between global superpowers. In some cases, warring groups were pushed together, and years later this led to tragedies like the Rwandan genocide that grew from tensions between different ethnic groups living in the same area. I think that some responsibility should be taken for destabilizing much of an entire continent, however it is difficult to find any solutions that could make up for what imperialist nations did. In many ways the damage has been done and further intervention in the name of “helping” might even cause more damage. On the other hand, these countries have somewhat of a moral obligation to step into dangerous political lamdscacpes that they were the cause of, and help innocent people who are falling victim to terror and brutal dicatorships. I think that it is a very difficult balance to find and that it should be a topic of conversation among world leaders of how best to help countries affected by colonialism without becoming over involved again.


Q: Do you believe that any benefits have resulted from European colonialism, or the United States imperialism?


Yes. There are certainly benefits, but these benefits do not outweigh the costs. Colonialism and imperialism have brought about the rise of globalism and international trade. It has also been the cause of technological advancements. However, these benefits must be viewed holistically, and we must see who these benefits were at the expense of.

no-one
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22

The next line following the quoted portion from Conrad's Heart of Darkness is: "What redeems [colonization] is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to....”. This concept of somehow-benevolent colonization with the idea of the “white man’s burden” to civilize the peoples of the world was frequently used as a justification for the European conquests of Africa, and, I would argue, persists today. The United States frequently invades countries with the goals of “spreading democracy”, liberal values, etc. In my opinion, whether or not this is a pretense for material goals on behalf of the oil or weapons industries is irrelevant. Even if the intentions truly are good, a powerful nation has no right to assert its own will over sovereign states, and it displays an immense hubris to think that it is our mission to remake the world in our own image.

Certainly, colonization in many cases involves some material benefits, and these beg the age-old question of freedom v.s. security. Being a part of a colonial empire generally ensures stable transfer of power, economic integration into a global market, and improvements in infrastructure. Of course, colonial powers do not do this out of the kindness of their hearts; this “economic integration” tends to be in the position of providing (i.e. being looted of) natural resources, in the Congo’s case mostly ivory and rubber, and seeing very little of the immense profits made from this trade. Colonial powers gain huge amounts of wealth, manpower for their wars and influence over other powers from their conquests. This exchange is not an equal one, and are the sparse benefits of colonial domination worth the loss of freedom and untold oppression? The thousands of rebels who rallied under Mulamba, Nzansu, and Mulume Niama and were willing to give their lives for the cause would surely disagree.

It is very dangerous to paint the events of colonization in the Congo as a perverse manifestation of an otherwise worthy system. In fact, this is a flaw in Conrad’s novel, one famously criticized by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe: his protagonist abhors the Belgian form of colonialism, but seems perfectly fine with that of the English. Just as we see that police killings are not simply the work of “a few bad apples”, the system itself is inherently the root of the problem. Hochschild writes, “While Leopold grandly issued edicts banning the slave trade, virtually no visitors except George Washington Williams stated the obvious: not only the porters but even the soldiers of the Force Publique were, in effect, slaves.” This is deeper than hypocrisy: Leopold may indeed have held some genuine sentiments of humanitarianism, and Williams is said to initially have been impressed by him (though surely Leopold was aware and accepting of the abuses in the Congo and to absolve him of guilt for these is ridiculous). But to paint Leopold as a uniquely evil figure whose rule over the Congo was the sole catalyst for the horrors that occurred there misses the point immensely. Hochschild describes that many Congo officials (though some especially sadistic ones did) would not themselves use the chicotte to punish the natives, or to execute them by firing squad, but would force black, essentially enslaved soldiers to do so. The officials did not need to be uniquely cruel themselves to enact cruelty: all they had to do was let the apparatus they had constructed play out.

This all is not to say that there were not uniquely cruel men who committed horrors in the Congo. Hochschild’s description of men like Léon Fiévez, whose atrocities are repellent even to read about, make this more than clear. Leopold's commission incentives and recruitment of discontented men from Europe who saw a place both to get rich quick and to fulfill fantasies of power surely made the corps of officers especially ruthless. However, it was not the individual evil of such people that made the Congo Free State a brutal system; it was the system itself that enabled and encouraged their behavior. To truly learn from Leopold's Congo, we must see it not as colonization perverted by sadists and monsters but what colonialism always can be, and that we must address the systems which birth evildoers, not just the symptomatic violence which comes from them.

The colonization of Africa left an indelible legacy which affects its politics to this day. In fact, resources dubbed "conflict minerals", which are mined by and used to finance rebel groups and armies which often commit human rights abuses, find ready buyers in tech companies to this day. This constitutes a newer form of imperialism, a subtler one, but abhorrent nonetheless. Colonialism, obviously, in the short term created anti-colonial rebellions and independence movements across Africa and Asia, and led to many post-colonial nations joining with the Soviet bloc or the Non-Aligned Movement out of an understandable distrust and animosity toward the West. The economic exploitation that occurred from colonialism undoubtedly resulted in the suppression of native African cultures, the instability and violence which plagues many states today, and the poverty which is unfortunately prevalent. There may be some responsibility which colonial nations have to redress the wrongs they committed in their colonial enterprises, but I fear that this may manifest itself as another new form of patronizing imperialism. Most of all, we should aid where we can, but stop meddling with the governments and economies of other nations for our own gain and let them forge their own ways.

In response to the question: "How do we make sure the right history is told about colonization, and not just the history of the victors", I think that we must emphasize the accounts that are most often excluded from the narrative: those of people who actually lived under colonial subjection. There are most certainly people alive today who grew up in countries under colonial control, as well as written accounts, though these are sometimes more difficult to find, of people who lived under nineteenth-century colonialism. These stories are essential for a de-propagandized and de-Eurocentrized understanding of history.

My question is: Are the forces of colonialism, in some form, still active today? If so, how does this manifest and how, if at all, can it be countered?


poptarts
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 22

1) There isn’t any. You simply can’t justify colonialism. It’s an extremely arrogant and selfish act that has no justification. Whether it’s to try and spread a religion or idea, it doesn’t mean you have to colonize an entire nation. There’s only justification from the point of view of the people who are colonizing, so it isn’t actually justification.

2) The only main possible benefits to colonialism is for the colonizers, it's rare that the colonized get benefits. The colonial nation gets the advantage of the resources available, the labor, the economy, and literally everything else in the country. On the other hand, the colonized gets their resources taken, their power completely shifts, and people end up under the rule and control of a country who really doesn’t value the people there as much as they do the resources and money from the country. The only instance I can think of the colonized nation getting any benefits from being colonized is if the changes that the colonizing nation makes are for the genuine good of the colonized country, but that's extremely unlikely to happen.

3) (this is kind of a mix of 3 and 4) The colonialism of Africa has both destroyed the way that the countries function, and how the land itself functions. When colonized, cultures, governments, and families were ripped apart to the point of no fixing, and you can’t just fix that within a couple of years. And of course the land itself was used and abused for resources (probably with no actual concern for how it might end up in the future) which is detrimental to those who rely on those resources to make money and it causes harm to the environment. Africa will for years and years to come struggle to make a full comeback from colonialism.

To answer the question above me:

Are the forces of colonialism, in some form, still active today? If so, how does this manifest and how, if at all, can it be countered?

  • The forces of colonialism are definitely still active today. Even if some nations are now independent, their previous colonizers have almost always set up some sort of obstacle to make it difficult for the country to thrive. For example, the French put Haiti in debt for over $28 billion, something that has both destroyed the economy and is still being paid off today. The US has made Puerto Rico and Cuba almost completely dependent on the US, and has kept them in debt so that they can rely on the US for even the simplest of things. It would be extremely difficult to counter, considering just how far the colonizers have managed to dig these countries into holes that they won’t be able to come out of alone. The only way we might be able to counter this is to provide countries, like Haiti and Cuba, with aid so that they can get back on their feet and be stable for their people, and to end the possibility of any future colonization. But that’s near impossible. Countries won’t simply stop colonizing people because people will always be corrupt, and if they can benefit from it they’re going to keep doing it. And if we do provide the countries with aid, there’s still going to be some sort of debt involved because it’s extremely unlikely that countries will give out aid without a price.

My question is, With all the detrimental things that happened to the countries in Africa during colonialism, what are ways that the countries can 'bounce back' to a more stable level? Should there be help from others? Should other countries stay out of it? Should the countries who colonized them offer any help or reparations?

caramel washington
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 15

In my opinion, there is no valid justification for colonial control over any nation. The basic rights that any nation has are sovereignty and autonomy, so if they are not in control of themselves then that place is being stripped of what makes it a nation. Colonialism also drains a country of resources, labor, wealth, and the opportunity for advancement. For example, in the Congo, Belgium and King Leopold used the residents of the country for forced labor, and “he made no distinction between the tusks of an elephant roaming wild of villager’s vegetables that could feed his soldiers: it was all his” (Hochschild, 117). We have seen in class that a number of former colonies are plagued by ethnic conflict, political strife, and economic despair, due to the legacy of colonialism.


I think Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is indicative of the extremes of colonialism, because of the emphasis on greed and profit over humanity. Leopold once declared, “in dealing with a race composed of cannibals for thousands of years it is necessary to use methods which will best shake their idleness and make them realize the sanctity of work” (Hochschild, 118).

This quote emphasizes the way that he viewed the citizens of the Congo: he saw them as backward savages who were somehow being saved from their own laziness by his forced labor. The lack of human dignity that these workers were given is further proof of the extremes of colonialism: children were forced to carry heavy burdens, people were chained together by the neck, and those who disobeyed the commands of the soldiers were beaten. The vivid descriptions of the beatings that took place particularly stood out to me as the author trying to portray colonialism in its most extreme forms.


In my opinion, one of the most prevalent long term effects of colonialism is the effects of prevalent and institutionalized racism throughout the western world. The text argues that the reason that people could sit by and allow the horrors that happened in the Congo to take place was because they viewed the people as truly inferior due to their race. " To Europeans, Africans were inferior beings: lazy, uncivilized, little better than animals" (Hochschild, 121). When people are viewed as less than human, the atrocities committed against them are seen as more likely to be excusable, and the attitudes aren't likely to go away anytime soon.


To answer the question asked by @poptart, I would argue that the countries who colonized should definitely be required to pay some sort of reparations, and that it should be the same as the amount of profit they made from goods and labor from the former colonies (adjusted for inflation of course). This is because the colonizer countries have been able to use their economic advantages and increased resources to advance their own economies through the exploitation of others, and it is only fair that they right these wrongs, even though it would still be far too little far too late. Other than that, I think if other countries wanted to send humanitarian aid or resources, that is generally a good response to anywhere that people are suffering. However, I think it makes sense for Western countries to try not to interfere in the internal affairs of African countries, because that interference has historically done far more harm than good.


My question for the next person would be: What aspect of the reading did you find the most surprising or horrifying? What stuck out to you and why?

poutineenthusiast
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21
  1. We’ve seen many forms of justification for colonialism throughout history. In many cases, colonizers have used religious missions as a way to justify their actions. Under the belief that they are on a “mission from God” as they wipe out entire populations for their own profit. Another justification used was colonizing with the idea that the colonizer was helping societies that were “primitive” or “savage” when in reality, they had diverse cultures that were just different compared to European cultures. All of the justifications used by colonists held no value. Even if they truly meant to colonize with that intent, it never justified their actions of killing and destroying the cultures of many nations.
  2. One benefit of colonization is the expanding global market. Despite the fact that colonies were forced into this global market and that their profit was being taken by colonizers, colonization introduced many nations into the global market, even if it was not by choice. This meant that goods from the colony could flow out, and global goods could flow in. Another benefit was the introduction of “modernity” to these colonies. In many cases, colonizers brought European technology to the colonies, which introduced European manufactured goods that these places had not had access to previously, however, many historians believe that these colonies could have created similar technology of their own and the introduction of these goods were not vital to the colonies.
  3. Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost perfectly captures the true horrors of colonialism. In other words, what colonialism can mean. Although King Leopold’s treatment of the Congolese is one of the most extreme examples, it’s really important to see the worst of colonialism and what it led to. King Leopold took control of Congo under the lie that he was there with the purpose of bringing Western influence to Africa, masking the crimes that he committed for years. Leopold is a great example of how a simple lie could mask years and years of oppression, a common tactic that many colonizers used at the time. One benefit that I listed was the idea that colonialism brought “modernity” to the colonies and how flawed that idea was, and we can see these flaws in Leopold’s case. Leopold introduced Congo to the global market, but at the benefit of himself. His introduction just led to the exploitation of the Congolese people and resources. It was just so easy for colonizers to get away with anything. I think the main take away from Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost that I got was that every “benefit” that can be argued in favor of colonialism always has a darker and deeper meaning behind it.
  4. This outdated idea that African countries are not as advanced as Western countries still persists today, despite the fact that this is not true whatsoever. The effects of colonialism have destroyed and erased much of Africa’s rich culture and history. Now, their history is filled with oppression and European colonization. Although African countries have rich cultures, we will never know how much of it has been lost or changed after colonization. Thousands of Africans were killed in the process, and the survivors were exploited and worked excessively. I would like to think that the world has progressed from our previous misconceptions of what the people around us are like, so I think it’s only fair that nations treat each other like other nations and not places that need fixing. I think former colonizers have some sort of debt to those that were colonized, and instead of brushing everything under the mat, the colonizers need to take responsibility for their actions and make reparations.
stylishghost
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 25

Originally posted by Yiddeon on January 31, 2022 13:12

  1. Many colonizers search for justification. They twist the ideas of Charles Darwin to fit their needs. This can be seen in the social Darwinism movements and later the Eugenics movement. Other nations justify their actions by claiming that they are helping the people that they subjugate. They use the ideas of the White Man’s burden to legitimize their actions. In truth, there is no good reason to colonize another country. It has only ever resulted in bloodshed and hampered the growth in that country both technologically and economically.
  2. There are many benefits to colonialism. Most if not all of these benefits are for the colonizer. They get free access to take advantage of their new territory. They can steal all of their products and force them to produce what they want, as the British did in India. They can take people from those territories and force them into the military like all the countries in WWI did. They can take natural recourses from them thus preventing any technology in those countries and even after the occupiers leave setting that country back decades. They can send unwanted people to those colonise as the Britsh did to Australia filling up the continent with most people that did not pay their debts. There are numerous more ways that a colonized country can be taken advantage of by an occupying power. The colonized country gets protection from getting colonized by another country but not much more than that.
  3. The horrible events during Leopold’s reign. They show how a controlling country can exploit the people under their control. The numerous tragedies that happened there are due to the same greed that drives colonization in all forms. This form of exploitation is a part of all colonization efforts. The specific details might vary but there were similar systems used all around the world at various times for various reasons. The system of quotas and forced labor camps are common, but the lies that were told during the colonization of the Congo make it maybe even more evil. Built on the lies that Leopold was trying to end the slave trade it only took another form with plantations still being present and people still being worked to the bone. This type of colonization is a common occurrence and many of the crimes committed are things that you can see across history, but it is also a microcosm of greed and exploitation that has not been seen at those extremes often in history.
  4. In Environmental Science we learned about the four types of countries. These are largely based on population but their names have interesting meanings. There are pre-industrial, transitional, industrial, and post-industrial. The majority of the countries in Africa, the Middle East, and some parts of Asia, with some exceptions, are in the pre-industrial or transitional periods. This means that they have high birth rates, high mortality rates, and the majority of people die young. These are troubling trends. Why do these countries that are hundreds of miles away from each other with separate cultures, governments, and economies all share these trends? Many reasons could cause this, but something that many of these places have in common is the fact that in the not-so-distant past they were colonized. So this is the way that countries’ colonization has affected countries over the long term. They have been set back as compared to what they could have been. Over the short term, it is more obvious what happened to these countries. Many experience famines like in India that the colonizers do nothing to help with. Many have slave labor or something bordering it. Many have crimes against native populations that leave scars on the history of both the colonized and colonizers. It is apparent that colonization has adverse effects on people over the short term and over the long term. It is also apparent who caused these. The colonizers. It is therefore part of the colonizer’s job to try and right the wrongs that they have committed. At the very least they need to allow the refugees from these countries that they had a hand in ruining into their countries.

Question: How has the US helped and hurt various nations through its acts of imperialism?

The US has most hurt nations through acts of imperialism, because they have taken resources and even people from their very countries and used them to our benefit. Now, as imiigrants from poor countries try to enter, we wave them away, as if we weren't the ones who took the value away from their land, and increased violence.

stylishghost
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 25

No justification

The only possible justifications of colonial control over any nation are based on lies. Claiming that native peoples would benefit from “moving forward” or technological advancements is a fallacy, since the motives of colonial nations are never just to “advance” the society they colonize. They want money. Labor. Gold. Ivory. Through their “arrangement,” the colonial nation gets almost everything from the colonized nation. The colonized nation possibly gets (if they survive) a new religion, and some may get jobs working for the colonial nation.

Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is most indicative of the perils of colonialism, because it described atrocities that occured in colonized nations, but not necessarily the long term impact that colonization had in these areas. “Vacant land” (even though most of it was occupied by native peoples) was declared undeniably by King Leopold with no exceptions. This is an obvious injustice to the people of the Congo, and showed just why colonialism was such a peril. Claiming all-powerful control over existing civilizations, and completely destroying them for resources may help the colonial nation in the short term, but what do they do once they have no more labor left, once the last native person is killed off because their hand was removed? What do they do once the very last elephant is killed, and ivory stops coming in piles to their ports?

The colonization of Africa, the division of the cake if you will, was clearly destructive in the short term. The diminished population (from slavery, disease, and abuse) left the culture in shambles. However, even worse, is the long term effects of colonialism. Because, once that last elephant is killed, the colonizers flee. Those who originally hunted for ivory, those who built their culture around it, are left to repair it. This is why today colonial nations should owe so much to the places they colonized. They took the lives, pride, culture, and resources of those who lived there, and left them with nothing.


Q: What should colonial nations do to repay the places they colonized?


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