posts 1 - 15 of 31
nfogel9
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 4

Reading: Excerpt from Adam Hochschild,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!

runningdog96
Posts: 18

Colonizing the Kongo

  1. I don’t believe there is any possible justification for colonial control over any nation. Control, in its entirety, means that one group is dominant over another, which feeds into the hierarchy that our society is based on. So based on the historical definition of colonial control, there is no justification. Throughout history, this control included diminishing (to say the very least) those native to the land being colonized, forced assimilation, and forms of cultural genocide. To take away one’s culture with no true cause except for the act that it is different than one’s own is extremely immoral, and violates a number of ethics. Historically the excuse has been made that colonization is to “spread religion”. However, this often means forcing one’s religion onto another because it’s viewed as “superior” ,or less barbaric. There is an extreme lack of acceptance and feeling of superiority which must be exerted, none of which can be justified, especially when it leads to such a massive human rights violation as enslavement. When colonial control leads to something such as slavery, or cultural genocide, or forced assimilation, there is no logical reason to justify it. To say that one’s culture is better than another’s simply because that person or group’s culture is different is simply wrong, and to say otherwise is foolish, especially when the ramifications of colonial control can still be explicitly seen today across the world (parts of Africa are still majority catholic, as are many parts of Latin and South America).
  2. To the colonizing nation, there are many benefits to colonialism, hence why so many nations chose to become colonizers. There is increased access to resources, more power, as well as more laborers who could be paid very little if anything at all. Colonialism was so appealing to many nations because of the immense advantages brought from it, one of the largest ones being the more land under a nation’s control, the more powerful and intimidating they were to other nations. It was a form of gaining influence due to the increased access to resources and power over trades. If an area was known to have a particularly important or valuable material, and a colonizing nation had control over that area, they not only were able to say they had more land, but were also then able to control the trade of that commodity, making them immensely powerful. However, none of that negates the atrocities committed as a result of colonization. A colonized nation gained nothing from this arrangement, as very clearly seen in the reading by Hochschild. The accounts of those native to the Congo after colonization were those of extreme pain and desperation. Many of the primary sources discussed people feeling lost, or incredibly desperate as a result of the horrid treatment they received by those they were colonized by.
  3. I would say that King Leopold’s Ghost is most definitely the norm. It is not an extreme, as the firsthand accounts were similar to those I’d read in history textbooks, or in other sources we have discussed in Facing class. The countless rebellions, whippings using tools such as the chicotte, or general sentiment of pain and suffering from those colonized reminded me of many things I learned throughout AP World History, including the Haitian rebellion, or enslavement in the Americas. This example was not an extreme, and the stories shared could have been told by millions of others around the world - an idea that is powerful. The testimony of many white colonizers that say they did not have the stomach to whip or beat those they colonized, so they would make them do it to themselves, is one I have heard before. The forms of torture, such as placing still alive people on a dissecting table, seem to be a running theme that go hand in hand with colonization. All this to say that this particular instance was not an extreme of colonization- it was a norm, and things such as this were happening all over the world at the very same time.
  4. The list of short and long term effects of the colonization of Africa is far greater than I know, but those that stand out to me the most are first and foremost, the fact that many parts of the continent are still majority catholic, and the borders of the continent are still there for no cultural reasons, but simply because that is how they were broken up by colonizing countries. Not only are some parts of Africa catholic, but this is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these nations being culturally robbed. They were forced to assimilate to Western culture (many are still westernized, partly having to do with some of them still being within Western spheres of influence), with their own culture being completely taken from them. The borders serve no cultural sense, but still serve Western nations and exist because of western nations. Not only that, but when many colonizers pulled out of these nations (not just in Africa, but the Middle East, Asia, and Latin and South America), their economies fell apart. These Western countries made no effort to help them, and instead left them to their own devices- a similar approach to what we are taking today. Many “underdeveloped” countries are still within the spheres of influence of Western countries, but simply so their resources can be exploited. Therefore, colonizing nations have a responsibility to help their former colonial subjects without intervening in their culture or establishing any sort of dominance.

Question (a bit broad): While we cover colonialism and colonization in our history classes, it is not nearly to the extent that we should. However, it is simply not possible for courses to cover the history of the entire world. So, how do we ensure that important events- such as this- are not left out of the narrative without glossing over other things that could be deemed equally important?

gato927
West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 26

“The Conquest of the Earth…..is not a pretty thing”: Colonizing the Kongo


  1. In my opinion, there is no justification for colonization or colonial control over any nation. To me, it is absurd to justify having control over another country or group of people because you see yourself as “better” than them. The biggest example of this that I can think of is the colonization of the Americas and removing Natives from their homes. However, there is no excuse nor any good reason to force your culture or religion upon others. Motivations for colonization vary, and money is not a good enough reason to destroy the lives of millions of people. Not to mention the effects of colonization can be seen centuries later, where languages and traditions are wiped away or only remembered by a select few. No one has an “obligation” to capture, enslave, and/or convert people just trying to live their lives, and I think we as a society need to understand this.
  2. Depending upon which side you support, there are benefits to colonization. For the colonizers, they have just gained access to new lands, resources, and people. To them, there is a whole new world of possibilities, and they can completely disregard the people, culture, and way of life that once was there. On the other hand, if you’re being colonized, there are very few, if no positives to this. The colonizing nation has more power, which gives them more control and opportunities, but the victims of colonization rarely see the bright side. In King Leopold’s Ghost, Hochschild goes into detail about how the Congolese did not benefit from the Berlin Conference, and the people in Congo did not benefit from the colonization, and were left in desperation. In history there have been times when the colonized nation has gained some compensation, but overall there is normally very little to no reimbursements. This is mostly because the colonizing nation believes they are doing a “favor”, and do not think about the consequences and the lives being destroyed.
  3. In King Leopold’s Ghost, it is most indicative of the extremes of colonization. Historically, this case has been one of the most inhumane records of colonization, which I learned in my AP World History class last year. I think the downside to this was that I learned about it from the capitalist perspective, that King Leopold was expanding his nation, and it ignored the real way the people of Congo were treated. For example, a Congo state official noted in his memoirs, “A file of poor devils, chained by the neck, carried my trunks and boxes towards the dock.” This quote highlights the horrible treatment the people of the Congo received when they were dominated by King Leopold. Hochschild also mentions how the death rates exponentially increased because of forced labor. The most disgusting thing to me from this reading was the children being flogged, just for laughing at a white man. I believe that this is the extremes of colonization because of the way people were treated and the lasting effects on the nation. Not to mention that male children who survived this suffering would ultimately have to serve as soldiers for the state's colonies. Overall the way the Congolese were treated was completely inhumane and unjustified. One could argue that King Leopold’s Ghost also indicates the perils of colonization because of the men, women, and children who were mutilated and killed.
  4. My knowledge of short term effects of African civilization is small, and I think that is because I’ve always learned about the colonizers, not the people who were actually suffering colonization. I can imagine that it was very traumatizing for the people who suffered the effects of colonization. Long term effects are more visible, for example how most of Africa is Catholic and English is spoken in many countries. The westernization of the cultures in these countries, especially in the Congo, can be seen today, with most of their traditions being stripped from them. Colonizing nations do have a responsibility to their formerly colonized subjects because even though the nations are not dealing with this now, it still happened in the past and the colonized nations are living with the effects of it, so the colonizing nations still need to take responsibility.

How do the effects of colonization on the people of Congo relate to the colonization of Native people who were here before colonization? Are there some of the same effects on the two groups, or are they different?


gato927
West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 26

Originally posted by runningdog96 on February 06, 2022 22:04

  1. I don’t believe there is any possible justification for colonial control over any nation. Control, in its entirety, means that one group is dominant over another, which feeds into the hierarchy that our society is based on. So based on the historical definition of colonial control, there is no justification. Throughout history, this control included diminishing (to say the very least) those native to the land being colonized, forced assimilation, and forms of cultural genocide. To take away one’s culture with no true cause except for the act that it is different than one’s own is extremely immoral, and violates a number of ethics. Historically the excuse has been made that colonization is to “spread religion”. However, this often means forcing one’s religion onto another because it’s viewed as “superior” ,or less barbaric. There is an extreme lack of acceptance and feeling of superiority which must be exerted, none of which can be justified, especially when it leads to such a massive human rights violation as enslavement. When colonial control leads to something such as slavery, or cultural genocide, or forced assimilation, there is no logical reason to justify it. To say that one’s culture is better than another’s simply because that person or group’s culture is different is simply wrong, and to say otherwise is foolish, especially when the ramifications of colonial control can still be explicitly seen today across the world (parts of Africa are still majority catholic, as are many parts of Latin and South America).
  2. To the colonizing nation, there are many benefits to colonialism, hence why so many nations chose to become colonizers. There is increased access to resources, more power, as well as more laborers who could be paid very little if anything at all. Colonialism was so appealing to many nations because of the immense advantages brought from it, one of the largest ones being the more land under a nation’s control, the more powerful and intimidating they were to other nations. It was a form of gaining influence due to the increased access to resources and power over trades. If an area was known to have a particularly important or valuable material, and a colonizing nation had control over that area, they not only were able to say they had more land, but were also then able to control the trade of that commodity, making them immensely powerful. However, none of that negates the atrocities committed as a result of colonization. A colonized nation gained nothing from this arrangement, as very clearly seen in the reading by Hochschild. The accounts of those native to the Congo after colonization were those of extreme pain and desperation. Many of the primary sources discussed people feeling lost, or incredibly desperate as a result of the horrid treatment they received by those they were colonized by.
  3. I would say that King Leopold’s Ghost is most definitely the norm. It is not an extreme, as the firsthand accounts were similar to those I’d read in history textbooks, or in other sources we have discussed in Facing class. The countless rebellions, whippings using tools such as the chicotte, or general sentiment of pain and suffering from those colonized reminded me of many things I learned throughout AP World History, including the Haitian rebellion, or enslavement in the Americas. This example was not an extreme, and the stories shared could have been told by millions of others around the world - an idea that is powerful. The testimony of many white colonizers that say they did not have the stomach to whip or beat those they colonized, so they would make them do it to themselves, is one I have heard before. The forms of torture, such as placing still alive people on a dissecting table, seem to be a running theme that go hand in hand with colonization. All this to say that this particular instance was not an extreme of colonization- it was a norm, and things such as this were happening all over the world at the very same time.
  4. The list of short and long term effects of the colonization of Africa is far greater than I know, but those that stand out to me the most are first and foremost, the fact that many parts of the continent are still majority catholic, and the borders of the continent are still there for no cultural reasons, but simply because that is how they were broken up by colonizing countries. Not only are some parts of Africa catholic, but this is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to these nations being culturally robbed. They were forced to assimilate to Western culture (many are still westernized, partly having to do with some of them still being within Western spheres of influence), with their own culture being completely taken from them. The borders serve no cultural sense, but still serve Western nations and exist because of western nations. Not only that, but when many colonizers pulled out of these nations (not just in Africa, but the Middle East, Asia, and Latin and South America), their economies fell apart. These Western countries made no effort to help them, and instead left them to their own devices- a similar approach to what we are taking today. Many “underdeveloped” countries are still within the spheres of influence of Western countries, but simply so their resources can be exploited. Therefore, colonizing nations have a responsibility to help their former colonial subjects without intervening in their culture or establishing any sort of dominance.

Question (a bit broad): While we cover colonialism and colonization in our history classes, it is not nearly to the extent that we should. However, it is simply not possible for courses to cover the history of the entire world. So, how do we ensure that important events- such as this- are not left out of the narrative without glossing over other things that could be deemed equally important?

I think in order to ensure events like this are taught in history there has to be a norm of what is taught in the classroom. We've circled back to the many times in class where we have referenced how the APUSH textbooks rely history and how we have actually learned it in class. It would be difficult to install this norm, especially because some schools in America do not even want to teach slavery. I think to make sure we teach these things in the classroom is for more teachers to understand the depth of this history, and want to teach their students.

runningdog96
Posts: 18

Colonizing the Kongo- Response

Originally posted by gato927 on February 07, 2022 12:03


  1. In my opinion, there is no justification for colonization or colonial control over any nation. To me, it is absurd to justify having control over another country or group of people because you see yourself as “better” than them. The biggest example of this that I can think of is the colonization of the Americas and removing Natives from their homes. However, there is no excuse nor any good reason to force your culture or religion upon others. Motivations for colonization vary, and money is not a good enough reason to destroy the lives of millions of people. Not to mention the effects of colonization can be seen centuries later, where languages and traditions are wiped away or only remembered by a select few. No one has an “obligation” to capture, enslave, and/or convert people just trying to live their lives, and I think we as a society need to understand this.
  2. Depending upon which side you support, there are benefits to colonization. For the colonizers, they have just gained access to new lands, resources, and people. To them, there is a whole new world of possibilities, and they can completely disregard the people, culture, and way of life that once was there. On the other hand, if you’re being colonized, there are very few, if no positives to this. The colonizing nation has more power, which gives them more control and opportunities, but the victims of colonization rarely see the bright side. In King Leopold’s Ghost, Hochschild goes into detail about how the Congolese did not benefit from the Berlin Conference, and the people in Congo did not benefit from the colonization, and were left in desperation. In history there have been times when the colonized nation has gained some compensation, but overall there is normally very little to no reimbursements. This is mostly because the colonizing nation believes they are doing a “favor”, and do not think about the consequences and the lives being destroyed.
  3. In King Leopold’s Ghost, it is most indicative of the extremes of colonization. Historically, this case has been one of the most inhumane records of colonization, which I learned in my AP World History class last year. I think the downside to this was that I learned about it from the capitalist perspective, that King Leopold was expanding his nation, and it ignored the real way the people of Congo were treated. For example, a Congo state official noted in his memoirs, “A file of poor devils, chained by the neck, carried my trunks and boxes towards the dock.” This quote highlights the horrible treatment the people of the Congo received when they were dominated by King Leopold. Hochschild also mentions how the death rates exponentially increased because of forced labor. The most disgusting thing to me from this reading was the children being flogged, just for laughing at a white man. I believe that this is the extremes of colonization because of the way people were treated and the lasting effects on the nation. Not to mention that male children who survived this suffering would ultimately have to serve as soldiers for the state's colonies. Overall the way the Congolese were treated was completely inhumane and unjustified. One could argue that King Leopold’s Ghost also indicates the perils of colonization because of the men, women, and children who were mutilated and killed.
  4. My knowledge of short term effects of African civilization is small, and I think that is because I’ve always learned about the colonizers, not the people who were actually suffering colonization. I can imagine that it was very traumatizing for the people who suffered the effects of colonization. Long term effects are more visible, for example how most of Africa is Catholic and English is spoken in many countries. The westernization of the cultures in these countries, especially in the Congo, can be seen today, with most of their traditions being stripped from them. Colonizing nations do have a responsibility to their formerly colonized subjects because even though the nations are not dealing with this now, it still happened in the past and the colonized nations are living with the effects of it, so the colonizing nations still need to take responsibility.

How do the effects of colonization on the people of Congo relate to the colonization of Native people who were here before colonization? Are there some of the same effects on the two groups, or are they different?


The effects of colonization on these two groups are very similar; they were completely robbed of their cultures and forced to assimilate. Not only that but they were treated terribly by the colonizing nations and completely dehumanized. While Indigenous peoples were slaughtered and that wasn't the case for the people of Congo, the effects of colonization on both these areas were very similar in that their cultures were decimated and they were robbed of many of their basic human rights.

giraffes12
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Colonialism and King Leopold's Kongo

There is no justification for colonial control over any nation in my opinion. The “justification” that colonizers often tell themselves is that they are doing it out of moral obligation, that we need to “save” these people. We’ve learned about “The White Man’s Burden” which is the idea that white men need to save other people, or other nations. The US thought this way for a long time, and in some ways today still thinks this way.

The only benefit to colonialism is to the colonizer, and sometimes it can be beneficial to the colonists in the short term. But across history, colonists tend to break free of this idea that colonialism is a good thing, and that they want to be independent. The colonized nation usually gets money and resources out of this arrangement. They can use the nation’s resources and exchange them with other countries to make money. The only thing that the colonized nation gets out of the arrangement is usually protection from other countries, usually military protection.

What is described in the reading from Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is indicative of the extremes of colonialism. This is shown through the seizing and control over the ivory in the Congo. Congo state officials went on ivory raids, where they would kill elephants for their ivory tusks. Another reason that this is extreme is that the Congo people used to hunt elephants for many many years before this, but now they could only sell or bring the ivory to Leopald’s people. Economics were very regulated as well. “Money in free circulation might undermine what was essentially a command economy” (Hochschild 118). They used the Congo people mostly for labor. Fear was used heavily as a weapon. The Congo people were beaten or even killed for small things, like laughing in the company of a white man. Also, race was used to justify colonization. White Europeans saw Africans as inferior, and they became used to the violence that was used against them. For all these reasons, what is described from the reading is indicative of the extremes of colonialism.

In my view, colonialism makes it difficult for the development of nations in Africa. For some nations, generational trauma can last hundreds of years. The pain and suffering that nations like the Congo went through leave lasting impacts that can be felt even now. Some short term impacts are the difficulty of nations to be able to form a government. After being colonized and governed by another country for so long, immediately having to set up your own government can be very hard. Some long-term effects of colonialism are generational trauma, and also racism in general. Colonialism gave white Europeans the feeling as though they were better than African people, more civilized. Even today, in schools in the US, not much is taught about Africa. Education about Africa in this country is terrible. To give an example, US children sometimes grow up thinking that Africa is just one country. That is just completely false and is a very ignorant view of a very diverse continent. Education about Africa is definitely a huge impact from colonialism, and is still giving children the view that Africa is uncivilized. After colonialism ended, a lot of countries just let their former colonized nation scramble and figure it out for themselves. But I do believe that if you colonize a nation, once it is over, you have to help them in some ways, like possibly helping set up a government and their economy. However, this can be damaging in other ways; there cannot be too much influence while doing this. A great example of nation building gone wrong is Afghanistan, where the US put too much of their own influence, and soon after they pulled out, the government and military collapsed. Of course, there is more to that story and that is not a direct comparison, but it is similar. Also, making sure that the citizens of the former colonized country have basic human rights would be a good place to start.

What should be done about the education of Africa in the US? How can we go about fixing it?

giraffes12
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 25

Originally posted by gato927 on February 07, 2022 12:03


  1. In my opinion, there is no justification for colonization or colonial control over any nation. To me, it is absurd to justify having control over another country or group of people because you see yourself as “better” than them. The biggest example of this that I can think of is the colonization of the Americas and removing Natives from their homes. However, there is no excuse nor any good reason to force your culture or religion upon others. Motivations for colonization vary, and money is not a good enough reason to destroy the lives of millions of people. Not to mention the effects of colonization can be seen centuries later, where languages and traditions are wiped away or only remembered by a select few. No one has an “obligation” to capture, enslave, and/or convert people just trying to live their lives, and I think we as a society need to understand this.
  2. Depending upon which side you support, there are benefits to colonization. For the colonizers, they have just gained access to new lands, resources, and people. To them, there is a whole new world of possibilities, and they can completely disregard the people, culture, and way of life that once was there. On the other hand, if you’re being colonized, there are very few, if no positives to this. The colonizing nation has more power, which gives them more control and opportunities, but the victims of colonization rarely see the bright side. In King Leopold’s Ghost, Hochschild goes into detail about how the Congolese did not benefit from the Berlin Conference, and the people in Congo did not benefit from the colonization, and were left in desperation. In history there have been times when the colonized nation has gained some compensation, but overall there is normally very little to no reimbursements. This is mostly because the colonizing nation believes they are doing a “favor”, and do not think about the consequences and the lives being destroyed.
  3. In King Leopold’s Ghost, it is most indicative of the extremes of colonization. Historically, this case has been one of the most inhumane records of colonization, which I learned in my AP World History class last year. I think the downside to this was that I learned about it from the capitalist perspective, that King Leopold was expanding his nation, and it ignored the real way the people of Congo were treated. For example, a Congo state official noted in his memoirs, “A file of poor devils, chained by the neck, carried my trunks and boxes towards the dock.” This quote highlights the horrible treatment the people of the Congo received when they were dominated by King Leopold. Hochschild also mentions how the death rates exponentially increased because of forced labor. The most disgusting thing to me from this reading was the children being flogged, just for laughing at a white man. I believe that this is the extremes of colonization because of the way people were treated and the lasting effects on the nation. Not to mention that male children who survived this suffering would ultimately have to serve as soldiers for the state's colonies. Overall the way the Congolese were treated was completely inhumane and unjustified. One could argue that King Leopold’s Ghost also indicates the perils of colonization because of the men, women, and children who were mutilated and killed.
  4. My knowledge of short term effects of African civilization is small, and I think that is because I’ve always learned about the colonizers, not the people who were actually suffering colonization. I can imagine that it was very traumatizing for the people who suffered the effects of colonization. Long term effects are more visible, for example how most of Africa is Catholic and English is spoken in many countries. The westernization of the cultures in these countries, especially in the Congo, can be seen today, with most of their traditions being stripped from them. Colonizing nations do have a responsibility to their formerly colonized subjects because even though the nations are not dealing with this now, it still happened in the past and the colonized nations are living with the effects of it, so the colonizing nations still need to take responsibility.

How do the effects of colonization on the people of Congo relate to the colonization of Native people who were here before colonization? Are there some of the same effects on the two groups, or are they different?


This is a very well written response. The effects of colonization on the people of Congo and the colonization of Native peoples are similar in certain ways. Both were mistreated absolutely horribly. We can see in King Leopold’s Ghost how the people of Congo were treated, the terrible beatings and often killings that they endured and suffered through. Many Natives were raped and killed when Europeans came here. So yes, they are similar in some ways. Another way these groups are connected is that a reason that white people colonized them was because of terrible racism. White Europeans saw themselves as above both these groups on account of race.

mango04
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 32

“The Conquest of the Earth…..is not a pretty thing”: Colonizing the Kongo

  1. I don’t believe that there is any justification for colonial control over any nation. That’s not to say that white people haven’t tried to come up with their own bogus justifications like Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden.” This theory was used by scholars and regular people alike to say that colonialism is something white people must do as their duty to better help developing nations be more westernized. This idea connected greatly to Darwinism as white people were deeming themselves more biologically fit, therefore most willing to force people of color to assimilate through horrifying methods. The thought that nations met at the Berlin Conference to discuss the partitioning of Africa with no African person present to object this is haunting. European nations divided pre-existing tribes and African peoples’ ways of life all in the effort of stripping the continent of its resources. Their justification does not exist nor does it matter. Like we have discussed in class recently, the uprooting of lives and forced assimilation of marginalized people is never and will never be acceptable. This is a human rights violation.
  2. There is no such thing as a “benefit” of colonialism for the colonized. Those colonized, like the Congolese, were raped, tortured, and taken as hostages. In Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost, he goes into detail of how young children’s limbs were cut off and they were even sent to what Leopold called “children’s colonies,” which gathered young boys to “furnish [Belgium] with soldiers.” It can be argued, however, that the colonizers did benefit in some way. For example, King Leopold stripped the Congo of its rubber and other major resources and this wealth went directly to the king. Along with wealth, the colonizers get a sense of superiority, which is rooted in total oppression. Nations crave power, so the spreading of their sphere of influence is extremely vital to maintaining a reputation of one country. With all that said, no benefit for the imperialists will ever outweigh the atrocities committed by imperialization.
  3. What is described in Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is indicative of the norms of colonialism. Yes, this is one of the most extreme cases of human rights violations through colonization, but could that be because Europeans found out about this? What’s to say this hadn’t happened in other areas of the world at different times and we don’t learn about those as much or even have many historical records of these events. Also, the treatment of the Congolese by the Belgians was nothing new. The ways in which the Belgians tortured African men, women, and children are way too similar to the ways in which white people have treated indigenous people and enslaved people in America. I even remember reading a passage in eighth grade that told of Spanish soldiers cutting off the limbs of a young, Indigneous boy. This was mirrored in the Congo. Could it have happened elsewhere too? By describing the norms of colonialism, Hochschild is able to reveal its extremes and perils.
  4. It is almost impossible to label any effects of the colonization of Africa as “short-term effects.” In my opinion, all effects of colonization are long-term. African nations and groups lost major parts of their culture. They lost their resources from their lands. The economies of African nations were devastated as Europeans exploited its workers and cash crops. This often led to famine within Africa. Political conflicts grew especially as a result of colonization. Ethnic rivalries within Africa, perpetuated through colonization, are still seen in modern day. For example, the Tutsi and Hutu conflict, which lead to the Rwandan genocide is a result of colonization. Colonizing nations have a responsibility to fix the problems they created, while not imposing on natives' ways of life. This could be done through funding, aid, humanitarian groups, work for better representation for former colonial subjects, and most importantly, education of the country’s horrifying involvement in Africa.

My question: Even in the age of modern-day economic colonization being performed by the U.S. in the form of “Economic Hitmen,” people are unaware of the ways in which U.S. foreign policy is continuing efforts of exploitation and stripping of resources in developing nations. Why is that? Is the fact that people are uninformed an excuse? Is that enough to prove innocence? Did you even know about what an “Economic Hitman” was before this question?

mango04
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 32

Originally posted by giraffes12 on February 07, 2022 20:01

There is no justification for colonial control over any nation in my opinion. The “justification” that colonizers often tell themselves is that they are doing it out of moral obligation, that we need to “save” these people. We’ve learned about “The White Man’s Burden” which is the idea that white men need to save other people, or other nations. The US thought this way for a long time, and in some ways today still thinks this way.

The only benefit to colonialism is to the colonizer, and sometimes it can be beneficial to the colonists in the short term. But across history, colonists tend to break free of this idea that colonialism is a good thing, and that they want to be independent. The colonized nation usually gets money and resources out of this arrangement. They can use the nation’s resources and exchange them with other countries to make money. The only thing that the colonized nation gets out of the arrangement is usually protection from other countries, usually military protection.

What is described in the reading from Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is indicative of the extremes of colonialism. This is shown through the seizing and control over the ivory in the Congo. Congo state officials went on ivory raids, where they would kill elephants for their ivory tusks. Another reason that this is extreme is that the Congo people used to hunt elephants for many many years before this, but now they could only sell or bring the ivory to Leopald’s people. Economics were very regulated as well. “Money in free circulation might undermine what was essentially a command economy” (Hochschild 118). They used the Congo people mostly for labor. Fear was used heavily as a weapon. The Congo people were beaten or even killed for small things, like laughing in the company of a white man. Also, race was used to justify colonization. White Europeans saw Africans as inferior, and they became used to the violence that was used against them. For all these reasons, what is described from the reading is indicative of the extremes of colonialism.

In my view, colonialism makes it difficult for the development of nations in Africa. For some nations, generational trauma can last hundreds of years. The pain and suffering that nations like the Congo went through leave lasting impacts that can be felt even now. Some short term impacts are the difficulty of nations to be able to form a government. After being colonized and governed by another country for so long, immediately having to set up your own government can be very hard. Some long-term effects of colonialism are generational trauma, and also racism in general. Colonialism gave white Europeans the feeling as though they were better than African people, more civilized. Even today, in schools in the US, not much is taught about Africa. Education about Africa in this country is terrible. To give an example, US children sometimes grow up thinking that Africa is just one country. That is just completely false and is a very ignorant view of a very diverse continent. Education about Africa is definitely a huge impact from colonialism, and is still giving children the view that Africa is uncivilized. After colonialism ended, a lot of countries just let their former colonized nation scramble and figure it out for themselves. But I do believe that if you colonize a nation, once it is over, you have to help them in some ways, like possibly helping set up a government and their economy. However, this can be damaging in other ways; there cannot be too much influence while doing this. A great example of nation building gone wrong is Afghanistan, where the US put too much of their own influence, and soon after they pulled out, the government and military collapsed. Of course, there is more to that story and that is not a direct comparison, but it is similar. Also, making sure that the citizens of the former colonized country have basic human rights would be a good place to start.

What should be done about the education of Africa in the US? How can we go about fixing it?

I think that the U.S. must improve its education of Africa on many levels. For starters, geography and focus on major African empires is extremely lacking in the American education system. Also, I think that every student should be taught about the partitioning of Africa at the Berlin Conference and the effects of this. I think that the way to go about fixing this is by addressing these issues and making sure to pass legislation that ensures that all students in high school are learning this material; they are learning WORLD history, and NOT Eurocentric history.

flowerpower
Posts: 23

Post on colonialism and King Leopold's Kongo

  1. The only possible justification for colonial control would be that a larger more powerful parent country could help a developing country that may be struggling. This could be from implementing humanitarian laws, or improving an economy etc. However, this idea is unrealistic and never seems to happen. Colonist nations often use this claim as an excuse for their actions when in reality they are not helping the countries they colonize. Instead they exploit weaker countries for their natural resources and monetary value, with little to no regard for the people and cultures of colonized countries.Think, the US colonizing Cuba and their overall bad neighbor policy in which they viewed themselves as superior to Latin American countries and decided they could intervene socially politically or economically if they deemed it “necessary”. Overall there is no true justification for colonizing another country.
  2. The colonists receive many benefits from taking over a weaker nation, they gain all natural resources of the area as well as a cheap or enslaved labor force. This proves great for the economy of the colonizer as well as their power on the world stage. In times of competition over resources there becomes competition of which great power can colonize the most areas. The flip side of all these benefits for colonizers and the immense disadvantages for colonized peoples. They face extreme exploitation, if not slavery. One example of this is King Leopold's view that any and all of the land, animals, or peoples, of the Kongo were his to do what he pleased with. Generally speaking, colonized nations receive a new government that likely doesn’t care for the well being of the people, and they will likely experience forms of oppression under their colonizers rule.
  3. I think that Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is indicative of the norms of colonialism. I have always been taught to view this case as one of, if not the most extreme form of colonization, and the tourture, starvation, and overall treatment of the people of the Kongo was extremely brutal. However as I have learned about other people's colonization and treatment I see the patterns. American colonies' treatment of Native Americans, British treatment of Indians, Spanish treatment of Aztecs/Incas, and so many other instances all exemplify the norms of colonialism. Powerful countries think that they, and their populations, are superior to the countries they colonize. This mindset of white superiority, with a view of Africans (or other colonized peoples) as uncivilized, animalistic beings is what was often used to justify imperialism. This theme can be seen throughout all colonial empires.
  4. I think one of the lasting impacts of the colonization of Africa is the way the world views africa. In developed countries we often see people viewing the countries of Africa as weak, that they have no food, or water, or schools, and that we are better and smarter than them. While there are many different regions which experience different levels of prosperity it is important to recognize that Africa is full of civilized people and places. A short term impact on Africa is the cultural stripping they went through, as well as trauma the people of the Congo, and the rest of Africa, experienced. When western nations colonized Africa they brought with them their own culture which was then forced into the lives of African People. They were robbed of their own culture or forced to westernize it, this continues to impact the people in the nations of Africa today. The nations that previously colonized others should pay reparations to the people they had ruled, however most nations don’t participate in this responsibility. However colonizers will never be able to undo the trauma they have caused to these nations and their peoples.

Question: Why is it important for us to learn about imperialism and it long/short term effects on colonized nations? How does it make us better citizens of the world?

flowerpower
Posts: 23

Originally posted by mango04 on February 07, 2022 20:34

  1. I don’t believe that there is any justification for colonial control over any nation. That’s not to say that white people haven’t tried to come up with their own bogus justifications like Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden.” This theory was used by scholars and regular people alike to say that colonialism is something white people must do as their duty to better help developing nations be more westernized. This idea connected greatly to Darwinism as white people were deeming themselves more biologically fit, therefore most willing to force people of color to assimilate through horrifying methods. The thought that nations met at the Berlin Conference to discuss the partitioning of Africa with no African person present to object this is haunting. European nations divided pre-existing tribes and African peoples’ ways of life all in the effort of stripping the continent of its resources. Their justification does not exist nor does it matter. Like we have discussed in class recently, the uprooting of lives and forced assimilation of marginalized people is never and will never be acceptable. This is a human rights violation.
  2. There is no such thing as a “benefit” of colonialism for the colonized. Those colonized, like the Congolese, were raped, tortured, and taken as hostages. In Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost, he goes into detail of how young children’s limbs were cut off and they were even sent to what Leopold called “children’s colonies,” which gathered young boys to “furnish [Belgium] with soldiers.” It can be argued, however, that the colonizers did benefit in some way. For example, King Leopold stripped the Congo of its rubber and other major resources and this wealth went directly to the king. Along with wealth, the colonizers get a sense of superiority, which is rooted in total oppression. Nations crave power, so the spreading of their sphere of influence is extremely vital to maintaining a reputation of one country. With all that said, no benefit for the imperialists will ever outweigh the atrocities committed by imperialization.
  3. What is described in Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is indicative of the norms of colonialism. Yes, this is one of the most extreme cases of human rights violations through colonization, but could that be because Europeans found out about this? What’s to say this hadn’t happened in other areas of the world at different times and we don’t learn about those as much or even have many historical records of these events. Also, the treatment of the Congolese by the Belgians was nothing new. The ways in which the Belgians tortured African men, women, and children are way too similar to the ways in which white people have treated indigenous people and enslaved people in America. I even remember reading a passage in eighth grade that told of Spanish soldiers cutting off the limbs of a young, Indigneous boy. This was mirrored in the Congo. Could it have happened elsewhere too? By describing the norms of colonialism, Hochschild is able to reveal its extremes and perils.
  4. It is almost impossible to label any effects of the colonization of Africa as “short-term effects.” In my opinion, all effects of colonization are long-term. African nations and groups lost major parts of their culture. They lost their resources from their lands. The economies of African nations were devastated as Europeans exploited its workers and cash crops. This often led to famine within Africa. Political conflicts grew especially as a result of colonization. Ethnic rivalries within Africa, perpetuated through colonization, are still seen in modern day. For example, the Tutsi and Hutu conflict, which lead to the Rwandan genocide is a result of colonization. Colonizing nations have a responsibility to fix the problems they created, while not imposing on natives' ways of life. This could be done through funding, aid, humanitarian groups, work for better representation for former colonial subjects, and most importantly, education of the country’s horrifying involvement in Africa.

My question: Even in the age of modern-day economic colonization being performed by the U.S. in the form of “Economic Hitmen,” people are unaware of the ways in which U.S. foreign policy is continuing efforts of exploitation and stripping of resources in developing nations. Why is that? Is the fact that people are uninformed an excuse? Is that enough to prove innocence? Did you even know about what an “Economic Hitman” was before this question?

I did not know what an "Economic Hitman" was before this question! From the brief explanation and context of the question I assume it involves the US using it's money/power/influence to control and exploit developing nations. Obviously this form of colonization is unacceptable and should be discussed/taught more openly. I think this brings up the idea that facing history, or a class like it could/should become mandatory. Teaching students the history of how the world has treated each other, while working to expose, undo, and educate on internal biases is important. It would hep ensure the well rounded education of the next generation of voters and citizens.

etherealfrog
Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 27

Colonizing the Kongo

I don’t think there is any valid justification for colonization. In every instance of colonization that I know of, the colonizers only harmed the people and land that they colonized, and committed cultural and/or physical genocide. The very concept of colonialism is harmful, because one force having control over another country can only serve to create an imbalance of power and injustice and inequality between the colonizers and the colonized. We’ve seen this in both what we learned about the history of British colonization of what is now the US, as well as in the section from Hochschild’s book about Belgian colonization in the Kongo, where the colonizers brutally killed and mistreated the people they colonized.


Any benefits of colonization really only benefit the colonizer. For example, so much of what we consider “progress” in the United States is as at the expense of destroying Native people and lands, or in the example of the Kongo, the boom in rubber production only happened because they forced native Congolese people to harvest rubber under terrible conditions, and there are so many similar examples to this. The colonialist nation is able to take advantage of the resources of the country they colonize, but the colonized nation doesn’t get anything out of the arrangement. For example, as King Leopold’s Ghost mentioned, the European colonizers took ivory from the Kongo, and forced Congolese people to give them ivory at a very low price, but they sold it for a much higher price.


I’m not sure if the colonization in the Kongo could be entirely considered the norm, but I don’t think it’s extreme compared to many other examples of colonization that I know about. Although there are definitely some periods of colonization that are not nearly as brutal, some had similar practices and levels of brutality. I feel that I don’t know enough about other colonizations to say for sure, but just in comparison to the colonization of America, the colonization in the Kongo seems to be different, but still horrific.


I don’t know much about the short term effects of colonization in Africa and the Kongo, but in the long term, there is so much in Africa that is a result of colonization. When the colonist nations left African countries, they left so much of their land and culture destroyed. As some other people mentioned, many African countries are still Catholic as a result of missionaries. Also, many countries still primarily speak the language of their colonizers. One of the most noticeable effects of colonization is the way colonization destroyed the economies in many African countries. Many areas had strong economies, but they were destroyed because of how colonizing nations stripped them of their resources. Colonizing nations absolutely have a responsibility to their former colonial subjects to support them so they are able to operate autonomously again. Even if their colonialism happened a long time before, they have a responsibility to undo as much damage done as possible.


Question: What measures should be taken to ensure that people learn about colonialism in a way that doesn’t glorify the colonizer, as many pieces of media and educational materials unfortunately do?

etherealfrog
Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 27

Originally posted by flowerpower on February 07, 2022 20:56

  1. The only possible justification for colonial control would be that a larger more powerful parent country could help a developing country that may be struggling. This could be from implementing humanitarian laws, or improving an economy etc. However, this idea is unrealistic and never seems to happen. Colonist nations often use this claim as an excuse for their actions when in reality they are not helping the countries they colonize. Instead they exploit weaker countries for their natural resources and monetary value, with little to no regard for the people and cultures of colonized countries.Think, the US colonizing Cuba and their overall bad neighbor policy in which they viewed themselves as superior to Latin American countries and decided they could intervene socially politically or economically if they deemed it “necessary”. Overall there is no true justification for colonizing another country.
  2. The colonists receive many benefits from taking over a weaker nation, they gain all natural resources of the area as well as a cheap or enslaved labor force. This proves great for the economy of the colonizer as well as their power on the world stage. In times of competition over resources there becomes competition of which great power can colonize the most areas. The flip side of all these benefits for colonizers and the immense disadvantages for colonized peoples. They face extreme exploitation, if not slavery. One example of this is King Leopold's view that any and all of the land, animals, or peoples, of the Kongo were his to do what he pleased with. Generally speaking, colonized nations receive a new government that likely doesn’t care for the well being of the people, and they will likely experience forms of oppression under their colonizers rule.
  3. I think that Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is indicative of the norms of colonialism. I have always been taught to view this case as one of, if not the most extreme form of colonization, and the tourture, starvation, and overall treatment of the people of the Kongo was extremely brutal. However as I have learned about other people's colonization and treatment I see the patterns. American colonies' treatment of Native Americans, British treatment of Indians, Spanish treatment of Aztecs/Incas, and so many other instances all exemplify the norms of colonialism. Powerful countries think that they, and their populations, are superior to the countries they colonize. This mindset of white superiority, with a view of Africans (or other colonized peoples) as uncivilized, animalistic beings is what was often used to justify imperialism. This theme can be seen throughout all colonial empires.
  4. I think one of the lasting impacts of the colonization of Africa is the way the world views africa. In developed countries we often see people viewing the countries of Africa as weak, that they have no food, or water, or schools, and that we are better and smarter than them. While there are many different regions which experience different levels of prosperity it is important to recognize that Africa is full of civilized people and places. A short term impact on Africa is the cultural stripping they went through, as well as trauma the people of the Congo, and the rest of Africa, experienced. When western nations colonized Africa they brought with them their own culture which was then forced into the lives of African People. They were robbed of their own culture or forced to westernize it, this continues to impact the people in the nations of Africa today. The nations that previously colonized others should pay reparations to the people they had ruled, however most nations don’t participate in this responsibility. However colonizers will never be able to undo the trauma they have caused to these nations and their peoples.

Question: Why is it important for us to learn about imperialism and it long/short term effects on colonized nations? How does it make us better citizens of the world?

I think it’s important to learn about the effects of imperialism and colonization because oftentimes we’re only taught history from the side of the colonizer, which can make it difficult for people to empathize with the populations actively affected by colonialism. If people don’t realize the harm colonialism can create, they don’t realize that colonialism is a bad thing.

turtle17
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 24

Colonizing the Kongo

  1. I don’t believe that there is any possible justification for colonization over another nation. Some people may argue that it would help a country succeed better, but I disagree with this statement because it is hard to define what a successful country is without bringing in bias. Colonization eventually erases a country’s culture; it can change their language, religion, cuisine, and most of the time, these changes are made forcefully.
  2. There definitely are benefits to colonialism, but just for the imperialist country, the one doing the colonizing. Most of the time colonies are made to provide a ‘mother nation’ with better access to a place that has rich land, resources, or opportunities. The mother nation can stake her claim in a new land, without needing the country’s leader to even take a step. But as said before, the colonized nation does not get anything, and rather, they loose what previously existed.
  3. I do believe that the colonization of Kongo described in King Leopold’s Ghost, written by Adam Hochschild is the norm when it comes to colonization. It definitely may seem extreme, especially with some of the details like “the soldiers brought baskets of food for us to carry, in some of which was smoked human flesh…”, but unfortunately, this was the reality for many colonized nations, it just hasn’t been documented. Only recently have I been able to see, understand, and access the harsh reality of countries that were colonized, and learn that what I had been taught was a glamorization of a much, much, more inhuman reality. Another thing that the colonization of the Kongo has that is repeated in many other colonies is the forced conversion of the people living there. The excerpt mentions how children’s colonies were established by Catholic missionaries, and because these children were stripped away from their parents, they were now considered orphans. This goes to show the desire to replicate the mother nation on to the colonized nation, and how there was no hesitancy whatsoever to do what needed to be done for this to happen.
  4. One of the main long-term affects that I believe colonization has on Africa is the way the continent is viewed by the rest of the world. People are aware that it is not one culture and one language in the massive continent, but that concept is hard to shake due to how Africa has been perceived and talked about. Africa is essentially viewed as a ‘third world continent’, because not all of it was ‘fixed’ or ‘bettered’ by Western nations. I believe that the colonizing nations have the responsibility to try and eliminate this stereotype, because they are the main reason it exists. Africa should not be viewed as a poor, helpless continent the way that it is, and the stigma surrounding it needs to be erased.
The question previous to my post asked, “What measures should be taken to ensure that people learn about colonialism in a way that doesn’t glorify the colonizer, as many pieces of media and educational materials unfortunately do?” and similar to what I stated before, I believe that the harsh reality needs to be faced. People need to hear about the torture, the forced cannibalism, and all the other terrribly inhumane actions committed, because that's what is deserved. The countries that committed these actions need to face repercussions.

Question: What do you believe the Congo would look like today if it was never colonized?

hisoka
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 23

The Conquest of the Earth is not a pretty thing

There is no justification for colonization. The only time anyone can see the justification is when they are the one doing the colonizing, or not being affected at all in the situation. Yes there are benefits, but only to the colonizers. They get free labor and access to trade that (the colonized) nation might not have otherwise had access to. They would also have more land which comes with many benefits like, more plantations for agriculture, or military bases along with factories for various industries to advance the nation into an industrious one. The people being colonized gain access to new plants and animals which can be beneficial but not when paired with new economic and governmental systems also being forced upon natives. I think this text is indicative to the extremes and perils of colonization which, at the time, was the norm. The text itself is mainly from the point of view of Henry Stanley, the main character (a colonizer himself). Because of this you see “extremes and perils” through the eyes of colonizers, which would be very different from seeing them (“extremes and perils”) from the eyes of people being colonized. The effects that colonization had on the development of Africa into where the continent is today is significant. There were huge economic impacts as well as cultural and political impacts. A lot of land was taken by colonizers and used until it had little to no value in terms of resources, and to keep up with trade and supply chains native Africans were heavily taxed. Nations that colonized Africa should be held responsible for where it colonized and nations that emerged (in Africa) after. Even if an area wasn’t directly colonized it was still affected by colonialism around it, whether it had an impact on trade, culture or even language. Colonialism, no matter how insignificant it might be in the broad spectrum of things, has a huge (negative) impact on native people in the place being colonized and it’s important to take accountability for your actions, even if this means reparations or giving significant amounts of land back.


Should colonialist nations pay for reperations even if they did it long ago?

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