posts 1 - 15 of 25
Boston, US
Posts: 350

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 wrote the 1902 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. Conrad 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!

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 18

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

There have been various justifications used throughout history to justify colonial control over a nation. One justification is the idea of the "white man's burden," which was used to justify European colonialism in Africa and Asia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This idea held that it was the duty of the white European colonizers to "civilize" and "Christianize" the people of the colonized nation, and that colonial control was necessary to accomplish that. Another justification is the concept of "economic exploitation" which holds that the resources of the colonized nation were necessary for the economic development and prosperity of the colonizing nation. Additionally, colonial control was seen as a means of spreading and enforcing Western cultural and political ideals.

Colonialism can bring some benefits to the colonizing nation, such as access to new markets, resources, and labor. Colonial powers often extracted resources and wealth from the colonized territories, which can lead to economic growth and development for the colonizing nation. Some argue that colonialism also brought Western technology, education, and political systems to colonized countries, which led to modernization and progress. However, the benefits of colonialism for the colonized nations are highly debated. The colonized nations often suffered under colonial rule. They lost control of their resources, economies, and political systems, and they were often subject to brutal violence, forced labor, and cultural destruction. However, I think the harm done to the colonized nation outweighs any benefits that they provided to the colonizing country.

In Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost he describes the forced labor, violence, and exploitation that were inflicted upon the Congolese population in the pursuit of rubber and other resources. The events outlined are indicative of the extremes of colonialism. The colonization of the Congo under King Leopold II was characterized by particularly brutal and inhumane treatment of the Congolese people. The forced labor, mass killings, and other atrocities committed during this period were not typical of all colonial situations, but rather were specific to the Congo under Leopold's rule. This period of colonialism serves as a harsh reminder of the perils and negative consequences of colonial expansion and exploitation, and the human cost that it can have on colonized populations.

In the short term, colonization brought violence, displacement, and the forced labor of millions of people. It also led to the exploitation of resources, such as rubber, gold and diamonds, which were taken to the colonizing countries to fuel their economies. The colonizers imposed new systems of governance and administration, often resulting in the suppression of traditional cultures, languages and customs. In the long-term, the effects of colonization have been far-reaching and have had a profound impact on the development of nations on the continent. One of the most significant effects was the legacy of political and economic instability, which has been directly linked to the arbitrary borders, imposed during the Scramble for Africa, that often split ethnic groups and natural resources, and created ethnic tensions. The legacy of colonial rule has also led to ongoing economic inequality and underdevelopment in many African countries.

I believe that the colonizing nations have a responsibility to provide reparations for the harm they caused during the colonial period. This includes financial compensation for the exploitation of resources, as well as investments in infrastructure, education, healthcare, and many other things to address the ongoing effects of colonialism. Additionally, I think that colonizing nations have a responsibility to address the ongoing issues of discrimination and inequality that have been perpetuated by the legacy of colonialism.

Posts: 20

Colonialism in Africa--Oh god...

  1. Well, it would do some good to first define colonialism first. Oxford defines it as, “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.” In other words, it is a way to extend one country’s influence and control, to the next. The only possible justification I can have for colonial control is in developing countries. If some countries are incapable and have been proven incapable of self-government, colonialism becomes a well founded solution. This also applies when countries can no longer be self-sufficient––their economies are struggling, their people and children have no food to eat, and society is riddled with crime and continuous health problems. For comparison, a country like China cannot support colonialism. Its government is well-established, and their economy is booming. In other cases, country’s can depend on others through the United Nations, or other organizations that promote mutual relations.
  2. Perhaps the greatest benefit to colonialism is the improving medical field. If colonialism can promote healthier societies in developing countries, and provide medical help then it may be necessary for the country. In class, we talked about Rwanda and how it can take as long as ten hours to get to one corner of the country (even though it’s about the size of New Jersey). Here, colonialism could perhaps be helpful: providing safe and proper infrastructure. This means paving new roads, and creating more organized streets to improve transportation and other travel. The last benefit I can think of is more modern technology––that is more influence or implementation of new software or ways of communication. Additionally, with new technology, this can pave the way for access to better schooling. In return, I suppose the colonist nation gains an ally, and a title of dominance. The more countries that are colonized by one nation, the more recognition, influence, and established power that nation has in the world. It also proves how collected and advanced the colonist nation’s society is. The colonized nation receives more aid, a stronger backbone that accounts for them and stands behind them, but also an extreme lack of political, social, and economic freedom. In a perfect world, colonialism can be extremely beneficial, but it has almost always been about domination and popularity.
  3. I think Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is indicative of all types of colonialism. We’ll start with the norm. As colonialism became more common, it was not abnormal for there to be mistreatment of peoples, and complete disregard of culture. There was also an unlawful claim of already-occupied land at the hands of the colonizers. Unfortunately, it was normal to completely overrun the colonized nation. At first, there was some “benevolence” which was in fact exploitation, as cooperative African chief’s collaborating with the regime were awarded medals from Leopld. I think that the norm will always firstly be a disguise of intent. Nevertheless, as colonialism continues for longer, the facade is no longer upheld. This is where the extremes and perils of colonialism are brought to light. Many Africans were forced to collect and sell ivory to the King, yet they were often forced at gunpoint to lower their prices. As Hochschild describes, it was a command economy (an economy in which production, investment, prices, and incomes are determined centrally by a government.) Along with ivory harvesting, children were forced to become porters, often getting injured by the heavy luggage they were required to carry for hours. Yet, where it gets most horrifying is the chicotte beatings, where Leopold and other officials would whip and scar natives for not following orders. On top of that, more Africans were taken from their homes, kidnapped, and forced to be slaves. On one account, they were forced to carry “smoked human flesh.” Therefore, Adam Hochschild does an amazing job at portraying the norm, perils, and extremes of colonialism.
  4. Today we learned that the colonizing nations of Africa were Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Germany, France, and Britain (not forgetting Liberia being colonized by the US for slave trade). For Africa––and many other countries that faced colonialism––cultures, pride, and lifestyles were completely destroyed. Countries were completely exploited, and treated as a source of money, rather than the independent and colorful cultures that inhabited those countries. I don’t know if there were necessarily any “short-term” effects. Today, nations in Africa still must reap the consequences of colonialism. For one, an example discussed in AP Enviro a lot, is the mindless mining that happens in some of these countries. Africa is still manipulated for their abundant resources, just as their colonists had done before. Some of their land is still recovering from soil exhaustion as a result of plantations and cash crops–– and is still exploited for other raw materials. I also recently learned that colonialism promoted a mono-cultural economy for some countries in Africa, like Nigeria, meaning it relies on one product (like oil) for their economy. More countries are suffering from a lack of industrialization that was promised, and more unfair taxation from colonialists today! The colonialist nations must take full responsibility for Africa’s well-being. It is because of them that there are lasting effects, and continued grievances. This might mean monetary compensation, more mutual collaboration, or, at least, an apology. There is definitely something that these governments can be doing for Africa and its countries’ suffering.

My question is, what would our country be like OR how would you feel if our country was colonized?

(and I don't have a question to respond to yet)

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 21

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

  1. There can be many possible justifications for colonial control over any nation. First, and probably most commonly, is the self-deceptive justification in believing in the “white man’s burden”. In this, colonizers appeal to the belief that it is their responsibility to care for and civilize the world by spreading Christianity. In order to do so, they establish control over these colonies as it gives them close control over the colonization process. An externality of this—which also flows into the second justification—is that they often exploit these colonies by taking advantage of their exports and resources. They use this income towards their own economic prosperity as it “serves the mother country”—yet another justification for colonial control.
  2. Though the consequences heavily outweigh the benefits, there is still some good in colonialism if you look at it from top down. Perhaps the most substantial benefit is that the colony is presented with care and access to new markets. Yes, it is largely exploited, but the mother country often provides the colony with military protection, new technologies, labor, goods, and general well-being that can help progress the colony and lead them onto the path for independence. In turn, the mother country likely uses its land for resources, new trading posts, colonial labor, Additionally, by gaining control over such colonies, the mother country can effectively spread its influence over the world and gain recognitions of dominance, thus expanding their power.
  3. The reading from Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is most evidently indicative of the extremes and perils of colonialism. To start, major levels of violence, forced labor, exploitation, and inhumanity highlight this relationship. Respectively starting, Leopold often threatened the colonists at gunpoint in order to effectively get low prices ivory, essentially using violence as a means to assert dominance and get the things he wanted for free. Additionally, the constant threat of beatings were said to keep the colonists in check, but this was largely abused and done to the extent to assert dominance and strike fear into the eyes of the colonists. Regarding forced labor, the King often made small children carry his luggage for hours and do hard labor to achieve and maintain resources for the mother nation and king himself. Lastly, the large-scale exploitation came most visibly in the economic instability that followed the colonization. As the king took more and more goods for himself at such a reduced cost, the colonists were left with insufficient supplies and profit. Consequently, they often split apart from society in search for new ways to overcome this exploitation, further contributing to the loss of cultural identity there.
  4. The colonizers of Africa often imposed their culture onto the colonists in a method of forced assimilation. In turn, African culture was suppressed and there were significant losses of identity. Regarding the long term effects of colonialism, the initial exploitation left them in a permanent state of poverty and lack of resources to effectively climb their way out of it. These nations are still used by highly industrialized nations for their natural resources and mining extractions. Even now, entire cultures have been lost due to the assimilation. I strongly feel as though there should be some sort of rehabilitation that the colonizers should be responsible for to many of these African countries. This could be monetary compensation, governmental support, economic collaboration, or at least just a formal apology and recognition for their wrongdoings.
  5. With the way our society is today, I, as well as many others, will be quick to acknowledge the injustices and exploitation that comes with being colonized. Especially taking into consideration our nation's reaction to the racial inequalities right now, society would do almost everything in its power to fight back. I don’t completely know what our country might look like under colonized rule, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be a pretty sight with the protests that might come along with it. As for my question, what are some other examples in which these actions may relate to? I was definitely reminded of Christopher Columbus and his means of colonization. Are there any cases in modern day that may have any connection to these events?
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 17
  1. The possible justifications for colonial control over any nation are modernization, civilization, and industrialization. Oh the times certainly are a changin, and it seems that change is the largest proponent of colonization throughout history. The latter half of the 19th century brought forth tremendous changes in production and manufacturing across the globe. The antebellum United States arguably led the world in rapid technological, societal, and industrial change. Other significant developments occurred in European nations and in Japan where developing militaries and advancing transportation greatly enabled vast expansion. The age of imperialism had gone underway, and showed no signs of slowing down any time soon.
  2. The demand for land and labor will always pose a threat to a country’s sustainability on a global level. To remedy this, Western powers sought to colonize lands deemed “untamed” or “uncivilized” in order to settle the lands, exploit the natural resources and its peoples, and assert dominance in the eyes of other powers. The global interconnectedness of expansion would predictably allow for the exchange of tremendous knowledge and culture, and no doubt intense bigotry and misfortune to those being colonized as well.
  3. The unfortunate truth that exists, as supported by Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost, when contextualizing European colonialism in Africa is that the extreme horrors we cannot imagine occurring anywhere but in our history textbooks are hyper-normative and are indicative of a time where humanitarian causes were often ignored in favor of profit. As mentioned by several peers, I also found Hochschild’s depiction of Leopold’s command economy to be extremely powerful. If I were to reduce the efforts of European colonization to one gain it would undoubtedly be economic gain. When you can control a nation’s economy you control the livelihood of the people who support it. Thus, you create an unnatural dependency by the oppressed for economic stability by any means. As we saw with Leopold’s greed in the Congo’s treacherous rubber industry, many colonial powers are willing to ignore boundaries to exploit that dependency without consequence. This is a recurring theme in the history of colonialism. To name a few examples, the practice was present in India under the British, in the Philippines under both Spain and the United States, and in Korea under Japanese occupation.
  4. Perhaps one of the most apparent short and long-term effects of the colonization of Africa and the development of its nations on the continent today and their status is a socio-economic dependency on Western, white, European powers. The misguided paternalism adopted by the great colonial powers in Africa established long-lasting systems of finance, law, agriculture, and education; all of which were already established and predated the arrival of Europeans in Africa. The native traditions of these powerfully independent nations were absorbed into the all too hateful vacuum of European racist colonialism. In many cases, the modern western systems of society were influential in the development of industry across the continent in all realms of the public sphere. Nonetheless, national identities within the continent were quickly forced to assimilate to a changing and unforgiving world. Long after colonialism in Africa, the social and political systems across the continent founded by European powers remain in place today, reminding us of the scars of oppression and exploitation. Here raises the question about responsibility to the colony on the part of the parent nation after colonialism has ended. It is my contention that there is no perfect solution to the problems that exist within an independent nation after severing ties with its colonizer. On the one hand, the colonizing nation has a responsibility to ensure the longevity of its colony once they are no longer under their jurisdiction. On the other hand, perhaps the parent nation ought to make a clean break, and refrain from meddling in the affairs of its former colony immediately. Perhaps both options lead to potential risk for corruption and instability; whether the parent nation unofficially rules over the colony to ensure some manifestation of prosperity, or whether the new nation is left to fend for itself lacking proper governance and infrastructure.
  5. One question I have is how are reparations quantified when understanding the consequences of generations of trauma and abuse as seen by the scramble for Africa by European powers?
Freight Farm Enjoyer
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

Colonizing the Kongo

I doubt there have ever been any historical circumstances under which colonizing a country was actually justified, and while colonialism may not necessarily be as violent as the examples given in the Kongo, it still fundamentally involves one country basically invading another and then trying to exert control over it, which is not only unethical but is also highly bound to lead to further conflict, as can be seen with the rebel groups fighting back against their oppressors in the Kongo.

Colonialism, for the most part, seems to exist purely to benefit the colonialist nation. The reading detailed a description of colonizers who sometimes tried to make it seem like they were engaging in a mutualistic relationship with the people of the Kongo, but for the most part they clearly just saw them as easy ways to make money. This stems pretty heavily from the fact that they were hardly regarded as human beings, and therefore it wasn't viewed as necessary to ensure that they profited from the colonialism because they, in the eyes of the Europeans, simply mattered less, and it was ridiculous to imply that they were in any way deserving of the same profits that Belgium saw from the interaction. It was also made abundantly clear that not only did the colonized people not benefit, but they were greatly damaged, as they were forced to work sometimes fatal amounts, and they suffered unfathomably harsh treatment from their European colonizers starting at a young age; the more you read about just how cruel the Belgians' attitude towards the people of the Kongo, the more you begin to get a sense that the main purpose of it was to completely destroy their spirits and reduce them to nothing but obedient workers who would just bring money in for Belgium without asking questions or even expecting to be treated like human beings.

Doing almost any research on the topic of colonialism pretty quickly leads you to realize that the reading's account of colonialism was not in any way uncommon. The division of Africa into different territories by Europe, when colonialism had still yet to take place, already showed a distinct mindset of dehumanization toward everybody living in Africa, as the borders were drawn with complete disregard for any actual societies present on the continent, instead pretending like all Africans were part of one monolithic culture, and that dividing them up wouldn't be an issue for anybody. That being said, King Leopold's Ghost contains some of the most vivid and shocking descriptions of colonialism in action which I have ever read. Specifically, the flogging of children as a result of them laughing in the presence of European officers and the scoffing at one man's horror in response to the torture and executions which soon became commonplace really gives you an idea that the people native to this land were being treated almost like livestock. The reading mentions that the colonialism in Africa gave way to a history "written by the victors", which is why we don't often hear stories about rebel groups fighting back, like the ones in the reading. It makes me wonder how often these rebel groups actually formed and how often they were successful to any extent in fighting off or subduing their oppressors, as most stories you hear about colonialism are just about the cruelty that people faced at the hands of colonizers and not what they did in response.

As I already mentioned, demoralizing the people of the Kongo seemed to be a major part of the Belgians' mission in their colonization of this country, and you can imagine how that would have negative effects on the nation, even after it gained independence from Belgium. There are also accounts given of certain rebels who swore to kill all white people, not at all a surprising response given the treatment they were forced to endure. Undoubtedly, the general environment in the Kongo during the period of colonization would lead to fierce racial tensions lasting on and on into the future. In modern times, people often generalize Africa as a poor, starving continent, and while that's a gross oversimplification of things and often far from the truth, it's hard to deny the fact that a concerning amount of Africa faces some degree of poverty, often heavily contributed to by the colonization which occurred in the past. I'd say that the nations who colonized them definitely owe them some contributions to help repair the seemingly irreparable damage which colonialism did during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as many of the problems faced by African countries can be traced almost directly back to Europe.

Responding to the question "How are reparations quantified when understanding the consequences of generations of trauma and abuse as seen by the scramble for Africa by European powers?":

This is a difficult question to answer because trauma and abuse can't just be magically undone, no matter how hard we try or want it to happen. That being said, you generally get the idea that European powers financially drained countries in Africa by exploiting their workers and giving them little to nothing in return, or, to put it simply, they stole labor, and therefore money. It's hard to quantify just how much money European powers rightfully owe to countries which were once their colonies, but I think its safe to say that the all-too-common practice of just pretending like they don't owe anything at all is not only unrealistic, but also immoral and unethical to those who have suffered.

Question: What conditions do you think lead people to act like colonialism is justified, and how can we fight back against these kinds of mindsets?

Posts: 18

I think possible justifications for colonial control for any nation are for expanding an already existing empire and gaining access to more natural resources. While these justifications seem more passive, they do not justify the absolutely awful treatment of native Africans by their colonizer. However, there are also much more horrible justifications to colonizing a nation like deep-rooted beliefs of white supremacy and the Christianization of people, which I agree with griffin.lally on. The beliefs are surrounded, I believe, are rooted when people believe that they have a certain role in society to turn other to a more Eurocentric culture, stripping them of the life they’ve already lived. This applies to colonization, but also many other cases, like forced assimilation of Native Americans. I feel as if the well-known nations in Europe, who are known to have built great empires from colonization, intend mostly to treat others without harm. The harsh rule seems as if the Europeans needed to come in and “help” the native African people. This “help” included completely changing the way that their society was shaped, and now the economic situation looks way different, with all the forced labor.

I definitely agree that colonization has done more harm than good in the history of humans, however, I also believe that there is a benefit. I think the benefit is putting an area of the world on the map. Even today in 2023, Africa is a continent that isn’t well-known, and based on my knowledge of world history, without the history of colonization, much of this continent would probably still be unknown today. However, this benefit also shows how Eurocentric modern education is, and also proves why our in-class activity was quite challenging today. I think that ultimately this benefit is also a defect. The fact that we only know most of our history about a continent with over 50 nations, from a white man’s perspective is absolutely baffling. No benefit still justify how bad Leopold’s actions were. The D.R.C. may have been put on the map because of the actions of Leopold, but that never explains why Leopold treated the African with such a burden. There is no way to justify torturing people, it just demonstrates having no regard for the human race, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was only having regard for white people.

I think quite an obvious extreme of Leopold’s colonization described in King Leopold’s Ghost is the forced labor of children. Africans were taken away from their home and forced to labor as slaves. Slavery is absolutely the wrong way to treat people. Humans are humans, not property or robots. Children had to do just that, carrying luggage or performing difficult labor to maintain natural resources just because it seems patriotic to the D.R.C. and Leopold, himself. I think that no action is patriotic to one’s own country when life or death is on the line. I think as Hochschild describes the Belgian exploitation for rubber among other natural resources is indicative of the perils of colonialism. The exploitation of natural resources seems to be a common theme of colonialism. The European powers colonize for the sake of resources, much of the time, which is where they see as having more land is more useful. However, exploiting resources showed no remorse for Africans living around the time. Though the extraction of rubber sap may be a bit more passive, many natural resources, like diamonds and gold, which need to be mined, also damaging the environment that the Africans had preserved for so long. I think the norm that Hochschild describes is strict governance. The Belgian rule was harsher, than what I know of any other government, however, still describes the general status colonizers have to their colonies even reach towards the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries. The White colonizers didn’t have regard for their colonies’ citizens. They cared about their own desires, so the strict governance would make sure that the people new to colonization wouldn’t rebel or do anything to interfere with their actions.

Sort of what I mentioned earlier, I think the long-term effect and benefit of colonization of Africa was putting the continent in a more visible light. However, what’s worse is the lost culture of Africans. Because Africans were forced to assimilate, and just history has never been on the forefront, this part of human history is still vastly missing. Additionally, another long-term effect is that Africa has remained a fairly undeveloped continent, especially when you look to Europe. Hunger, electricity, and accessible water are all still problems. The harsh treatment by European colonizers didn’t help this industrialization happen any faster, in fact, I believe, it largely hindered the development of African nations, because they couldn’t decide what they wanted for their own countries. African nations needed to listen to what their colonizers decided. This could also be a short-term effect, but I see it affecting the continent even longer, as we look today. I wonder how many people can actually name all the countries in Africa. I would be surprised for most Americans to know over 15.

Responding to Freight Farm Lover’s question, I think that the conditions that lead to justifying colonialism is a nationalistic mindset. Those who are compelled to colonize see that their country is so great, it has power. Power to take over another country, because it is weak and full of resources. This sounds like exactly what I believed happened all over Africa, but also in areas like the Caribbean Islands. In the day and age of social media, I think to combat this mindset is to fact-check better online, cracking down on false and misleading information, as well as conspiracy theories in general.

My question is: Why do you think as society developed, we have approached a Eurocentric style of teaching, even though human beings didn’t originate from that part of the world?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 19

“The Conquest of the Earth… not a pretty thing”

Personally, I dont think that there is any justification for colonial control over another nation. We are all human. i will never understand why we couldn't just vibe and help eachother grow as a species. Exploitation and hierarchy over other human populations simply trying to live is gross and uncalled for. On the other hand, some countries thought it was justified because these other countries were troubled and needed their help. Christianity and religion could be an example of this. Many christians from European countries thought it was okay to colonize other nations in order to spread christianity and the words of god. Another reason why people may have seen it as justified was race superiority. White men belived they were superior to these developing countries with typically darker skin. White men believed they were smarter and overall just superior, and so they were in the right to take over other peoples land, and even go as far as enslaving other people, just because of their "inferior" skin. In reality, there was no real justification. It was all about superiority, power, economics, and religion (in favor of the white man)

There are numerous benefits to the colonizers. The colonized people suffer at their own expense. The colonialist nation may get things like better economic opportunitys for themselves. They would recieve the raw materials, the goods, and all of the labor, at a very cheap price, while they began to thrive economically because of these resources. The colonized nations could not increase their wealth and their economy, while basically everything they did beneffited the mother country greatly. The only real arguments that could even argue colonialism was beneficial to the colonized nation was the fact that many of these countries were developing. When colonized, they were exposed to things like new technology, infrastructure, military aid, and even better medicine. Although these things were cool and all, its very debatable whether or not they were particularly needed when it came to the toll that was really taken on these countries.

I think that what is described in the reading from Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is indicative to the extremes of colonialism. On page 129, Hochschild talks about the "slavery" that was occuring in Congo state. George Washington himself called it this. This page talks about the mistreatment of citizens in this nation by white settlers. It talks about a Belgian officer who had shot 60 people in 1 day, because they didnt want to work on a sunday. This page and other pages in the text talk about the neglect and poor treatment that many of these colonized peple had to go through. Leopold was powerful, and he would take advantage of these workers to the point where they were essenetially enslaved, working tirelessly and facing constant unfair and unsustainable conditions/punishments. The colonizes began to profit off of rubber production and the rubber market. The labor became more intense and more in-demand. I guess this became a norm. The colonized people were not left with nearly as much of said resources and profit than they should have been. On the other hand, Leopold was pulled out of his "dangerously" near-debt experience very easily.

The colonization of Africa has had a variety of long term effects on the development of different nations. For the colonizers and their countries, they are all doing quite well for themselves. England, Belgium, America, Portugal, Spain, etc, They are all doing very well economically nowadays. They are all developed countries. On the contrary, Much of Africa and the colonized nations are still developing and are not thriving financially, many places are actually still in poverty. Less than 10 of the 54 countries are even considered doing well economically. These results are not surprising. The colonizers that proffitted and grew economically due to the exploitation of these people and have continued to do well. Those that were stripped of their nationalism, culture, money, resources, etc. are not currently doing all that well in comparison. I believe that the colonizing nations have many reperations to make. I believe it would be extremely hard to even attempt to try to fix what had happened. It would be very hard for these countries effected to come back from something so devastating, its really quite sad.

Response to past question: We have a primarily eurocentric style of teaching because it is constantly the eurocentric countries/nations that are in power. They do not want to be seen as the bad guys. I also think it is because we live in a country that also partook in these activities, but does not want to admit its faults. I would hope that in other countries they are taught things from different perspectives.

My question: Do you think the world would be industrially diffferent today if this colonization never took place? How so?

Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 12

What possible justification can there be for colonial control over any nation?

I can only think of one possible justification for colonial control. If the ruler/government of a certain country is being unjust and there is no other way to stop them, another country can intervene and try to stop that power. This instance, though, is rare and most of the time, isn’t the reason why colonizations happen. Colonizations happen because of greed. Besides that one reason, there is no other justification that I can think of.

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?

Colonialism benefits the colonizer more than the colonized overall. The colonist nation gets to have more land to do whatever they want with it, from mining to farming and more. They gain more capital and are able to exploit the colonized people for cheap labor. At some point, it’ll be difficult for the colonized nation to go without the colonial power because they’ve been used to it for so long. If they do gain their independence, it’ll be tough for them to stabilize the country quickly. In an attempt to do so, they might borrow from another country and go into debt. It’ll be like an endless loop.

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?

Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost does an excellent job describing Congo’s pain under Leopold’s rule. This reading describes what many colonial subjects go through. The text mentions that there were pictures of the white men in charge having African servants in the back. This was a great example of the colonist nation’s authorities taking advantage of their positions, which is not surprising in the slightest. Naturally, the ruler of the colonial power will try to make excuses and hide what their actual intent is with the colonized nation. In the situation of Leopold, he lies and says that it’s “certainly not a business,” which is obviously a lie considering that he was obsessed with obtaining ivory that Congo had. Speaking of obtaining ivory, this was usually done with the help of exploitation. Exploitation is not a new thing that occurs in a colonized nation. The people who actually got the ivory for Leopold were barely paid. Cruelty comes along with exploitation. One case that struck me was when children were punished with 75 lashes because they laughed in a white man’s presence. The colonization of Congo is a good way to see the effects of colonialism.

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?

The colonization of Africa has extremely affected the development of nations. A major consequence would be the hindered development of cultures. It’s possible that many things in African cultures were erased due to colonization. As I mentioned before, countries that have been colonized will be set back with instability, especially in the economy department. The colonizing nations do indeed have responsibilities. They should be open to immigrants leaving the formerly colonized place. It’s their fault for putting the country in such a state. They should most definitely not leave their former colonial subject(s) in debt (looking at France here).

legoninjagofan67’s question: Do you think the world would be industrially different today if this colonization never took place? How so?

Yes. Totally. We would have never gotten this far without colonization (as bad as it sounds). The countries that are rich now are wealthy due to the colonies they exploit. I think that if we were to get to this place without colonization, it would take much, much longer.


The reading mentions that the European authorities soon became disinterested/no longer cared about how brutal African people were treated due to seeing it so often. Likewise, it mentions that a lot of the lashings done onto African people were also done by other African people. Do you think the African people giving the punishments ever got used to it? i.e. Do you think they lost their empathy over time?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 15

Colonizing the Congo

  1. What possible justification can there be for colonial control over any nation?

After a lengthy amount of deliberation, I have yet to find ANY argument that holds up to intense scrutiny that justifies colonial control over a nation. The amount of cultural obliteration and obstruction caused, along with gross violations of human rights and decency, as well as the amount of bloodshed and corporate greed caused by such actions, one would have to be psychotic in order to justify executing colonialism. (It goes without saying, but this should not be confused with building and fostering multi-planetary colonies, say on Mars. That is different as, as far as modern science tells us, there is no existing people/culture on Mars to destroy. In the VERY early stages, the colonization [or rather… inhabitation, or occupation] of Mars would be a comparable feat to, say, inhabiting Antarctica for extended periods of time.)

  1. 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?

Colonialism, the action whereby a country seeks to acquire partial or political, but commonly full, control over another country, usually by military means, has been observed to have short-term, often short lived and superficial, positive effects for the colonizer nation. In the long-term, it leads to profound downturns, and is not a worthy practice as its negative effects are much more lasting and profound to the colonizer nation. The colonized nation on the other hand, even when the colonizer nation encounters short-term benefits for the economy, only will encounter the negative aspects, and the culture, people, and the country as a whole will continuously suffer throughout the ordeal and remain economically bruised for centuries after the event. From the colonizer's viewpoint, it can provide access to valuable natural resources (both economically and industrially), lucrative markets ripe for investment (and exploitation), and labor (often at the cost of vehement oppression and a blatant disregard for human rights, often defended by pseudoscientific concepts such as eugenics and racist dogma). The colonizer will also, usually for a brief period, gain geopolitical power and prestige through their control of colonies. The colonized nation(s) will suffer from forced labor, loss of land and resources, cultural suppression, and economic exploitation. The entire ordeal has zero benefit for the colonized nation, for if it did it wouldn’t be colonialism. The success of the colonization correlates heavily with how little you can minimize the success of the colonized country. Additionally, the colonized nations often experience negative impacts on health, education, and living standards, among many other factors.

  1. 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.)

King Leopold’s Ghost, by Adam Hochschild, is a historical account of King Leopold II of Belgium's colonization of the Congo, as well as the atrocities committed during his reign from 1885 to 1908. The book exemplifies colonialism's extremes, detailing the brutal exploitation of the Congolese people and the devastating impact it had on their lives, as well as the environment. The forced labor system imposed on the Congolese by King Leopold is one of the most striking examples of colonialism's extremes in the book. Millions of people were forced to work on rubber plantations, and those who did not meet quotas faced harsh punishment. The working conditions were frequently inhumane, with many workers dying as a result of starvation, disease, or abuse. This forced labor system killed an estimated 10 million people, making it one of history's deadliest forms of colonization. The environmental devastation caused by the exploitation of rubber and other resources is another example of colonialism's extremes in the book. The Congolese rainforest, home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, was systematically destroyed to make way for rubber plantations. This had a disastrous effect on the ecosystem, causing many species to become extinct and severely degrading the natural habitat of others. The book also emphasizes the dangers of colonialism in terms of the negative impact it had on Congolese culture and society. As people were taken from their homes and communities to work on rubber plantations, the forced labor system disrupted traditional ways of life. Many Congolese were also subjected to colonial authorities' violence, abuse, and other forms of repression, further eroding their cultural heritage and identity. Finally, King Leopold’s Ghost exemplifies the time's colonialist norm, in which colonizers prioritized their own economic gain over the well-being of the colonized peoples. Personal gain and greed drove King Leopold II's actions, with little regard for the human cost of his actions. He portrayed Congo colonization as a benign act, when in reality it was an exploitative enterprise that caused enormous suffering to the Congolese people.

  1. 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?

The effects of colonialism can still be felt in the developing world as the countries that were colonized, as previously mentioned, have had a profound effect on their emergence into new emerging markets, disproportionately more volatile economic development, impeded world status and world political authority. The colonizing nations should offer reparations, in my view, if not for a sign of goodwill and collaboration between the countries they colonized, then to at least save face on the global stage. It can’t be good that the previous leadership has done this, so even if they were purely driven to minimize expenditure and maximize return, they could at least offer to assist the nations in developing and reaching the height that their country can take them. More competition always leads to more innovations. If everyone is on a level playing field, we can start to improve and develop and innovate as a global effort, as a unified band of individuals.


Here’s some bonus interesting, related content I found through my research!


Here’s a clip from a video essayist (one out of a collection of curated channels that I enjoy) that goes into depth about the destruction of a library, the country in which that library sits are undergoing a conflict that can be traced back to colonial times. Whilst it doesn’t really connect with what is being said here, the story is just so heroic I felt compelled to feature it here. This guy is great, really solid diction and he heavily researches his stuff (sources in description)

[1] < >

Here’s another one by the same guy, here he talks a bit more directly about colonialism and how it destroys culture, this time relating to museum artifacts (this must be piquing Ms. Freeman’s interest! [he also has a few good ones about art and art analysis, which you may find interesting being an ex-museum curator, and a scholar of art history!]). The rest of the video is worth watching when you have the time. The video clip talks about how Nigerian art, specifically the kingdom of Benin, has been harmfully affected by Britain. I understand we have a few members of the class that are Nigerian, so it would be interesting to hear your thoughts about this.

[2] < >


Q: The reading mentions that the European authorities soon became disinterested/no longer cared about how brutal African people were treated due to seeing it so often. Likewise, it mentions that a lot of the lashings done onto African people were also done by other African people. Do you think the African people giving the punishments ever got used to it? i.e. Do you think they lost their empathy over time?

A: It's hard to say, there isn't much information on the subject, meaning we can only really speculate how they might have reacted. I would like to believe that they held onto their sense of empathy, and an opposite affect occurred, whereby witnessing such hardships they appreciated more empathy and kindness. But history is not on our side. It's also not hard to speculate that, like how other African people started to lash other Africans, they may have been conditioned to more vehemently hate one another, not to mention how the propaganda of the country could affect them and turn them to hate their own culture. We may never know.


New Question:

If you had infinite resources, how would you go about fixing the conditions present in Africa today? (Poor access to education, e-waste dumps, poverty, lack of proper infrastructure, etc.) Do you think that the issue exists today due to colonialism, or is it caused by another outside factor? Do you think we as a nation have the responsibility to intervene in this process, or should it be managed by the countries themselves? Do you think that the private industry should assist?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

Colonizing The Kongo

I don’t think there is any possible justification for colonialism, it was a horrible and appalling thing that left many African countries disadvantaged. Although the western countries believed that they were justified in colonizing because they were bringing civilization, education, industrialization, religion, and government to the “primitive people of Africa”. They just ended up taking advantage of their natural resources, and their people and used them to build wealth in their own countries. Many African countries still haven’t recovered from the repercussions of colonialism after independence 50-80 years ago.

Without colonialism many western countries would not be where they are today, they wouldn’t have the gold, the diamonds, the rubber, the oil for gas and electricity, and the crops for certain foods, that they have used to build up the wealth of their countries. Even though colonialism did more harm to African countries than good, they benefitted by getting access to education, and medicine, even though many poor people still don’t have access to it. They also gave them religions; Christianity and Catholicism, which are very important in many African countries, their entire lives are wrapped around their religion. They also benefitted from industrialization, It helped grow their economies, and helped them to have self-sustenance.

What happened in Kongo under King Leopold were “crimes against humanity”, and it shows the extremes of colonialism because the Congolese people became slaves in their own country. Kongo belonged to Leopold alone not all of Belgium, he did as he pleased with its people; exploitation, and forced labor for rubber, mass killings, the disembodiment of people, hanged Congolese people, brutalizing them by using chicotte, wiping them with hippopotamus hide on their bare buttocks. He believed that he had to save the “uncivilized, primitive African”.

The short-term effect of colonialism on African countries was the depletion of their natural resources and the killing and destabilization of many countries. Loss of traditional culture, language, religion, etc. The long-term effect is the fact that they’re a lot of environmental disasters that have happened as a result of the mining and cultivation of resources. The poverty, and violence, that are still present in a lot of African countries, the corruption that is in a lot of governments, and the unstable government that a lot of countries have.including the fact that many African countries are still being exploited for their natural resources. Colonizing nations need to return the art they stole, and the natural resources they stole in some form, either by giving the African countries money or some other kind of reparation to help them strengthen their economies.

My question: Do you think that some African countries should get reparations from the countries that colonized them, or are the benefits they got from colonialism enough?

My response to “My question is, what would our country be like OR how would you feel if our country was colonized?”

The United States was colonized, so we don’t have to imagine it. The British immigrants colonized it, pushed the Native Americans out of their homes, and never left. We already know how Native Americans feel about this, as we’ve learned in this class, what it did to their culture, their health, and other things.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 13

There is no adequate justification for colonization. The torture and brutalism that comes with colonization is not and will never be okay. It is completely inhumane. However, colonizers justify it to themselves by claiming that they are helping the colonized nation. They say they are civilizing “savages” with Leopold himself saying they were teaching “a race composed of cannibals for thousands of years” about “the sanctity of work.” Usually colonizers and missionaries force Christianity onto the native people under the guise of “saving them from eternal damnation.” In reality, they are stripping people of their own culture and religious practices.

Of course the colonizing nation gets many benefits from being a colonizer. They are able to steal the natural resources of the colonized nation and they often will use the colonized peoples as forced labor, essentially enslaving them in terrible work conditions. This means that the economy of the colonizing country grows at the expense of the lives of the colonized people. Sometimes a colonized nation will gain more advanced technology through their colonization but most of the time these advanced technologies will not be made available to those who need it and this advancement does not come close to being worth the atrocities of colonization.

Unfortunately, I think much of what was described in Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is part of the norm of colonization. The complete exploitation and dehumanization of the colonized people is a frequent occurrence in many colonized nations. The way people were treated as slaves and their lives were constantly put on the line in order to gather valuable natural resources has happened in many other places. The use of the chicotte or whip to punish those who didn’t gather enough resources was common in slavery and throughout many other forced labor systems. The rape of women and kidnapping of children are also common practices done by colonizers as an attempt to subdue their husbands and fathers or just for their own pleasure. Part of the reason why these practices are so common despite being unthinkable to most people is because the people administering these horrors distance themselves from the people they’re torturing. As Hochschild said, “to Europeans, Africans were inferior beings: lazy, uncivilized, little better than animals.” By treating Africans as less than human, it became easier for them to not care and this was a common justification colonizers used to dismiss their actions. I do think that some of what occurred was incredibly extreme even in terms of colonization such as the brutal mutilation of people including children, by cutting off their right hands. But even the practically impossible to fulfill quotas that killed people from exhaustion were not exclusive to the Belgian colonization of the Kongo.

I don’t think there are any short-term effects of colonization as the nations of Africa are still dealing with what happened to this day. Colonized countries were prevented from being able to industrialize and develop on their own and now more than half of African countries are part of the UN’s list of Least Developed Countries. I think colonizing nations should pay reparations to those they colonized and although this will never be enough to cover all the damage they inflicted, it is a start.

Rileyy’s question: “Do you think that some African countries should get reparations from the countries that colonized them, or are the benefits they got from colonialism enough?”

As I just mentioned, I definitely think African countries should get reparations from their colonizers. I don’t think there is any way for colonizers to fully be held responsible for what they have done. The “benefits” of colonialism barely account for anything. I think some of the so-called benefits Rileyy mentioned in their post aren’t really benefits. They bring up how Europeans brought Christianity and Catholicism which many African people follow today, but African peoples had their own culture and religions before colonization that were completely wiped away. I don’t think forcing a religion on anyone is okay and in my opinion, it is definitely not a benefit. Rileyy says that African countries benefited from the industrialization of Europeans and that it helped grow their economies but I think overall colonization brought economic instability to many countries in Africa since it made them reliant on exporting only one good.

My question: Why have most colonizing countries not taken responsibility for the harm they have done? And who, if anyone, should be holding them accountable?

West Roxbury, MA, US
Posts: 20

None of the European powers had any moral justification for the control of other nations. France, Spain, Germany, GB, Belgium, and other nations systematically split up and competed for foreign territories, “claiming” them if the land wasn’t already occupied by another European power. Millions of people were killed and suffered as a result of this, and many countries, such as Haiti and the DRC, still pay the consequences of colonialism today. I would say it is possible for colonialism to be morally justified if the invading power genuinely benefitted the conquered nation either economically, politically, socially, etc. If a country were able to keep a good amount of the profits they produced, then maybe the colonialists could’ve been justified. However, none of this was even close to happening. Over and over again, with the British East India company, the Congo, and even the U.S. colonies (to a lesser extent), we see that the mainland is basically just robbing and enslaving the lands they conquered.

Yes, there were many benefits of colonialism, but pretty much only to the colonists. European nations treated colonies as foreign lands where they could take resources and/or exploit the inhabitants for cheap labor. There were the U.S. colonies who exported cash crops to England for no representation in exchange, the South American nations who were enslaved in order to send sugar and silver back to Spain and Portugal, and the countless African nations whose populations were exploited under colonialism. The colonists benefit greatly because of this. As we read in the readings, Belgium was able to take advantage of a two-decade monopoly on rubber, greatly boosting its economy. However, none of this money circulated to the Congo and all of it went to the King so he could build more infrastructure in Belgium. The benefits that the colonized nation, such as slightly improved infrastructure and medicine, are negligible at best when compared to the devastating events that the populations have to endure.

Unfortunately, I believe that what we read in King Leopold’s Ghost was kind of the norm. There were recounts of villages whose populations were forced to carry out the painful process of harvesting rubber by applying it to their arms and waiting for it to cool. The act of causing physical harm during forced labor was rather common in European colonies, and honestly I can’t really think of any examples where this didn’t happen. One thing that might be a bit more extreme was the taking of hostages from these villages. Belgian officials would often kidnap certain members from villages, often women, chiefs, or elders, and only release them if the village provided a certain amount of rubber. What’s even worse is that the Europeans wouldn't even give the people back after they got the rubber. They would exploit the village further by “selling” the people back for food items on top of the rubber they already received. It’s just completely unfathomable that people could take advantage of others like this.

While there were some positive short-term improvements, I believe the effect of colonialism was still overwhelmingly negative. As mentioned earlier, the European nations made some slight improvements to infrastructure, brought medicine, and maybe provided temporary political stability, but that is nothing compared to the amount of people who died and suffered, the natural resources that were stripped away, and the people that were who either lost their jobs or were displaced. The long term effects still affect African nations greatly today. I believe I heard somewhere that almost all political instability can, in some way or another, be traced back to European colonialism. This makes sense, too. Many economies were destroyed, and when the Europeans left, no local governments were really established. I believe that the European nations who, today, enjoy being part of the first-world owe it to the countries that they exploited to help them develop. I learned in Enviro that there was an U.N. agreement that the more developed countries would help developing countries, but to no surprise, pretty much nothing has come out of it.

Question from Rileyy: Do you think that some African countries should get reparations from the countries that colonized them, or are the benefits they got from colonialism enough?

Yes, they definitely should get reparations. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, I believe that the European powers have an obligation to help the countries they colonized to develop.

My Question: Do you think certain African nations like the Congo would be more developed today if European colonization never happened?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 22
  1. What possible justification can there be for colonial control over any nation?
    • … I don’t see any justification for colonial control over any nation. Colonial control is only done, and has only been done, to exploit the people who inhabit the land they’re colonizing. There have been justifications used for colonizing by colonizers over the course of history, with some of the reasons being wanting to convert the natives of the land to Christianity or “civilization”, or to bring the king/motherland the “gold and glory” it deserves to be the biggest power in the world. In the book, King Leopold’s Ghost, it was mentioned that Leopold colonized the Congo so that he could earn some wealth from the natural resources it had, and so he could make the people in the Congo join Belgium’s idea of civilization. Intervening is perhaps more helpful for places that are struggling economically/politically/food wise than colonizing… but I’m not entirely sure on how much intervention would be necessary to fix a country’s problems…
  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?
    • There are some benefits to colonialism, such as new technologies and new medicines being passed down to those who inhabit the land, materials, and new foods. Other than that, there’s no other benefit to colonialism besides what the colonizers get from it, which is cheap labor and cheap raw materials that are taken away in cheap ways, no matter how much it affects the natives of the land or the land they take it from. In King Leopold’s situation, he received rubber, which became a huge commodity in the market because of the automobile business coming into fruition.
  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.)
    • King Leopold’s Ghost is indicative of the perils and extremes of colonialism. The officers of the Force Publique had unchecked powers and authority over the people of the Congo. In the book, it mentions that “as a station chief, you might be a hundred miles away from the next white official; you could levy whatever taxes you chose in labor, ivory, or anything else, collect them however you wanted, and impose whatever punishments you liked”(pg 136-137). To white people at the time, the Congo was the place to escape to. Want fame? Want power? Want money? Want no one to witness how bad of a person you are because you are thousands of miles away from your family and society? Well, it's time you come to the Congo! That was the sort of sentiment colonizers had when they came to the Congo. Even if the officers from the Force Publique were caught doing brutal things to the natives, King Leopold barely did anything about it. And yet, people who looked up to the king were calling the people of the Congo “devils,” because the officers could twist any story of theirs and tell journalists about it without them questioning whether what they said was true or not. King Leopold’s colonialism shows how dangerous colonialism can be because it shows that it is abusive and exploitative of the people on the island who don’t receive any direct benefits, rights, liveable wages, and who don’t receive the recognition they deserve from the whole world.
  4. 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?
    • Most of the lands that have been colonized by European powers have had their economic growth stunted due to long-term debts they are still paying off because of colonialism, and corruption coming from greedy leaders and things like that. Some cultures and religions have been erased or have been shaped to be acceptable to the European standard, and Chrisitianity has been a newly added religion to the country as well because of the introduction of it from colonizing nations. As for short term effects, I’m not really sure, but environmental degradation and the spreading of diseases might be a few short term effects depending on how bad they are.

My question is: Was there ever leaked information on how the colonized were treated in the Congo? Would society as we know it now be less eurocentric if colonization didn’t take place? Where would European countries be nowadays if they didn’t colonize other places? Did colonization start the introduction of racism to European societies/other nations?

Question posed by M3L0D7:

The reading mentions that the European authorities soon became disinterested/no longer cared about how brutal African people were treated due to seeing it so often. Likewise, it mentions that a lot of the lashings done onto African people were also done by other African people. Do you think the African people giving the punishments ever got used to it? i.e. Do you think they lost their empathy over time?

My response:

I think the African people who gave the punishments didn’t like what they were doing, of course, but they might’ve gotten desensitized by it for the sake of their own survival. Punishments done to them by officers were brutal because officers didn’t care about what happened to them. If they disobeyed even the slightest thing, the officers could give them punishments that could cause them their death. I think some still did have empathy, but they had to push it aside to live. It also depends on how sensitive the person was as well and who they were beating (if they were beating someone they knew or a mother, it might hurt them to do it even more than to others).

coffee and pie
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 18
  1. To be blunt, there is none. There is, in my opinion, no possible reason for any country to hold colonial control over anyone. Any justification that is scraped up by those powers to try and justify their actions hold no water in their practices or can be achieved humanely through other means. For example, an overwhelming reason used is to “civilize” and save other nations. This brings up a lot of questions regarding the validity of the goal - what is civilized? Who gets to define what it means to be civilized? Most of the time, it is in practice identified as anyone with a different way of life, not ‘uncivilized’ (which in itself is so vague). To ‘save’ someone means they need saving. What does it mean to need to be saved? Who decides? When looking at past events, it is clear that only the colonizer decides who needs to be saved.
  2. Of the two sides, colonist and colonized, only one side gets benefits - and it is not the colonized. The colonialist, since they have full control, can do whatever they want. Combined with unrestricted greed, they took with no regard. On their side, they gained money, goods, labor, money, power, monopolies of certain trades, money, territory, sadist satisfaction, and money. Did I mention money? Most of the goods they gained were natural resources. Taking with no regard left the colonized nation’s home destroyed. The labor colonialists used were forced from the colonized, very often with grotesque violence and inhumane threats. This included whippings, kidnapping women/children/elders, and just killing people. One of the most notable things they gained, though, is power and sadist satisfaction. That is, they could abandon morality and delve into torturing subjects, simply because they could. On the colonized side, they loose their autonomy, dignity, and very often, their lives. They don’t get anything, and loose everything.
  3. I think what’s described in the reading is the norm. Though extreme, the acts described happened everywhere in some form or another. Though, regardless it was extremely perilous. The general premise for what happens is acts disregarding humans to benefit the colonizer. One specific example we can draw comparisons from is the use of guns/violence to coerce/force natives into labour. There was a huge demand for labor to operate the ivory and rubber business, as well as for domestic and military use. No one wanted to do the labor, so they were held at gunpoint or whipped or had their villages raided. Inhumane things to get their labor. One shocking example is when troops took the gifts from a village only to come back shortly after, raid it, and kidnap all the people, put them in chains, and bring them miles away. They forced babies to be thrown away so hands were free to hold goods, and shot those who could not march further out of sheer exhaustion. This class of action, where there is violence to get labor, can be seen across most colonies. After all, the main reason why they were formed in the first place is to get those natural resources. Another example I want to talk about is the practice of putting children into religious churches, whether it be that their parents were killed, forced to work, or that they were kidnapped. This was done to, as said by Leopold himself, create new soldiers. This can be seen in the colonization of America with residential schools and the subsequent cultural genocide of Native Americans - creating ‘americans’, just as Leopold was creating soldiers.
  4. The short term effects are obvious - it was extremely detrimental to the environment, the culture, the people directly and indirectly. There were millions of deaths, more indefinitely injured, and still even more traumatized. Too many died without knowing freedom. Long-term is arguably worse. One of the major perspectives held is racism - its how many were able to fathom going through with these inhumane acts, because they did not see their subjects as human at all. These racist sentiments and stereotypes last all the way to today. The world is Eurocentric because of this. Most people can name european countries but not African, like we did in class, evident of this statement. One of the biggest stereotypes that continue today are that Africans are ‘savages’ or ‘uncivilized’, which is completely untrue, but widely beliieved as a result of olonization. In African nations themselves, the damage was so great that they could pause their growth. After European influence left (if at all), they spent time to heal, and only after could start to grow. I think the colonizing nations have a huge responsibility to acknowledge, apologize, and possibly compensate those they had colonized. This can include, at a basic level, returning stolen artifacts that are displayed in non-African museums. Also just acknowledging what they did would be good.

What would our country be like OR how would you feel if our country was colonized? (The one immediately before me asked no question)

It's a little hard to imagine what it might be like for colonization to happen to us, as it feels so far away. I know that colonization has happened before on Native Americans, but that was at a very different time. Could it even happen to us now that we are so diverse? And what would the motives for colonization be? I think I would feel shocked and desperate to get out and move to canada or something.

My question: what are some similarities or differences in human behavior when they were colonized/colonizing vs present day?

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