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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, MA, US
Posts: 14

"The Conquest of the not a pretty thing": Colonizing the Kongo

Many have justified colonial control by arguing that the colonizers are "saving" the colonized. However, this is not a valid justification, and there is no morally correct way to occupy another nation; states only colonize others in the search for power and money.

Colonialism often brings new infrastructure and a prosperous economy to the colonized nation, but only the colonizers reap the benefits. For example, according to Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost, Borna, Leopold's capital of the Congo, received a new train in between lively docks and ports, as well as new infrastructure, including a Church, hospital, post office and military base. Colonialism introduces increased wealth, infrastructure and trade connections, but at the expense of the colonized. The colonialist nation in charge gets wealth, new goods and territory from the "arrangement," while the colonized people receive almost nothing but mistreatment. For example, in the Congo, even those who received jobs under Leopold were treated unfairly and essentially treated as slaves. In class, we diagrammed the partition of Africa. At the Berlin Conference, without African representation, seven European states cut Africa like a piece of "cake," using the continent for their profit, regardless of existing divisions. Due to its single-sided benefits, colonialism is truly a parasitic relationship between the colonies and the mother country.

In his book, Adam Hochschild describes the norm of colonialism. Colonialism can only mean oppression for the colonized, as exemplified by Native Americans and the British, the South American indigenous populations and the Iberian nations, Maori people and the British and most African populations and European states; it is impossible to steal land without limiting the freedom of those already there. A common justification for colonialism is the "white man's burden;" white Europeans believed it was their duty to colonize Africa to civilize native Africans. As Hochschild wrote, "To Europeans, Africans were inferior beings: lazy, uncivilized, little better than animals" (Hochschild 121). Europeans would impose European standards onto natives, as exemplified by kidnapping Congolese children and sending them to Catholic missionaries. Colonization always takes place because the colonizers stand to profit, but never for truly morally sound purposes. In the case of King Leopold, he embarked on ivory raids, stealing ivory from across the state. Leopold forced native Congolese to labor for rubber, and the king brutally exploited the colony for its resources and labor source. This exploitation and oppression is a constant across colonized nations and characterizes this immoral practice.

In the short term, the colonization of Africa bolstered the economy at the expense of native Africans. Many Africans became servants to European governments, used as a lucrative labor source or soldiers for Leopold's military. Over time, Christianity was imposed on Africans, leading to a sizable Christian population in Africa today. The exploitation led to impoverishment around the country as African states' economies became reliant on Europe. Colonization enriched European states, creating the "First World," and left African states reeling and part of the "Third World." Because of colonization, African states can only now begin developing, decades behind their colonizers. Colonizing nations are responsible for providing monetary support to their former colonial subjects. They should help rebuild their economies and establish effective and stable governments. They should also promote indigenous culture and attempt to decrease the lasting effects of forced assimilation.

My question for the next person is: What responsibility do Americans have to Puerto Rico, colonized by the US in 1898 under the Treaty of Paris? Should they be accepted into the nation as the 51st state and receive citizenship rights or should they be released as a sovereign nation?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 15

Colonization is something that has never been pretty. Aside from a few fringe cases, most colonies start and end with the oppression of the people living there, and bloodshed is an inevitability. However, if I really have to fish for an upside I suppose you could argue there are a few. For many places, being under British rule was nothing more than saying you were under British rule. This had the advantage of the government being controlled by you but being under British protection, ensuring your safety. Just look at Hong Kong as a good example, almost all of its current problems started from no longer being owned by Great Britain.

Of course, we see the norm in King Leopold's Ghost: The natives of the colony are always exploited for the colonizing country's gain. Africa especially, since it had such abundant untouched resources it was perfect for slavery and colonization. The norm has always been oppression first for the native peoples, and some of the absolutely vile and terrifying things Hochschild talks about is disturbing to anyone. From kidnapping children to a man violently beating his servants to death with a fine of just 500 francs, it's clear that the brutality Europeans exhibited over Africa and the Congolese was not some accident or isolated incident. It's a direct focus of hate on a set of peoples for no discernable reason.

I think the greatest effect the colonization of Africa has had is the treatment of Africans not just in the US, but the world as a whole. This violent nature didn't stop with the colonies' independence, nor will it stop for anything. The effect it has had on nations as a whole has been... mixed.

It would be difficult to argue that European colonization did zero good. It did provide these places with some level of economic and technological advancements that might not have come otherwise (I try to tread lightly here because I don't want to come off as saying that what the Europeans did was right, just that like most things in history, it's not black and white.). Although that itself is not entirely amazing either, since better guns means more war, and more war means a worse economy. A lot of African countries still struggle a lot economically, and that is in no small part due to colonization exploiting them for years.

To answer mustarspider's question, I think it would be best if Puerto Rico was incorporated into the 51st state. Since the US is not going to do anything close to the magnitude of Britain and France, there are only positives for Puerto Ricans if they can finally become fully integrated into the US.

For the next person:

Why do you think Britain sought to colonize the new world despite there not being any promise of resources on the Norther Continent?

Posts: 15

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

There are plenty of justifications for colonial rule over another nation, as long as you are the colonizer. The colonial power is seeking to protect its own strategic interests in the region, such as access to resources or trade routes, as well as spreading its own culture and values to the colonized nation. Yet obviously, these are only benefiting one side. The people being colonized really aren't gaining/benefiting at all if they are in a situation similar to those under the rule of King Leopold II.

I think there are some benefits from colonialism, but only in specific cases. Colonialism similar to what was decided at the Berlin Conference has no benefit for the disadvantaged, yet different cases such as the original 13 colonies of America did have some benefits. Although the colonists were being taxed without a say in government, they were technically offered protection, which was especially helpful because of how small and early into their establishment they were. Colonized nations can also gain education and literacy from being colonized by greater countries, where they otherwise wouldn't have a system of education. Another possibility that can be both an advantage and disadvantage is that new religions and ideas can be introduced, increasing a nation's cultural diversity.

What was described in Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost was definitely both the norm and also in some cases the extreme. In AP World History we learned about multiple Empires that were religiously tolerant of those they conquered, and encouraged the indigenous people to continue practicing their own cultures. I also found out that 10 million people died under Leopold's rule, and the Congo Free State could have very well still been colonized without even one life being lost. The norm part of the Congolese colonization was their taxation as well as being stripped of their land. property, and resources. Although as I mentioned above, there are SOME colonizers who have been religiously tolerant, I'd say the majority attempt to suppress cultural identity as well as their traditional rights and freedoms.

The colonization of African countries has certainly left visible difficulties for large parts of the continent. In South Africa, the legacy of apartheid (a system of racial segregation specific to South Africa) has resulted in a split society based on health, education, and employment. In Nigeria, British colonization has left repressive governments, as well as religious tension. In Ethiopia, Italian colonialism has left the country with a weak government as well as widespread poverty. I think the least that past colonizer countries can do is acknowledge their wrongdoings, and if possible, even provide services for educational and economic assistance.

In response to StaphInfarction's question, I don't think Britain's main hope of conquering the new world was to gain resources. I always thought it was more for them to be able to expand their political/cultural influence, as well as simply expanding their territory and power.

Question for the next: America doesn't seem to have been left at a disadvantage due to Britains rule over us like other countries have been to their colonizers. If at all, do you think America would look different or be further/less along if we were never colonized by Britain?

Curious George
Boston, MA
Posts: 17


There are no justifications for colonization. But according to King Leopold of Belgium, African natives were lazy and needed to be civilized. In fact, he was saving their lives and offering “humanitarian” aid. By killing some, he’d set an example and save others. Also, the Force Publique was made up of African men… who “volunteered”. The only people who benefited from colonialism were Europeans, especially King Leopold himself. Congolese people did not benefit at all and were subject to exploitation for European wealth.

One of the biggest norms was the use of the chicotta for punishment. Even though white men were shocked when they first encountered it, they quickly accepted it as a norm and participated “from a distance”. They argued that they never touched the actual whip and would only command its orders. They also forced natives to inflict punishment on their own people.

The treatment of women and children were also results of colonialism. Women were chained, raped, and used as a bargaining tool to get men to collect rubber. Children were kidnapped and corced into childrens colonies to create soldiers and ingrain christianity. Before the rubber scramble, porters were chained, but due to the nature of collecting rubber, they had to enforce quotas. They used the chicotta and/or cut the hands of those who didn’t meet them.

The clearest example of the norms of colonialism is the manual distributed to European agents with instructions on how to hold people hostage to get rubber.

For a period of time, soldiers were able to fight back and threatened European authority. But in the long run, the development of African countries is extremely hindered, poverty is widespread, and many countries are constantly destabalized. Colonizing nations have a huge responsibility to their subjects. It is difficult to define how they need to “help” because even now, western intervention still has terrible outcomes.

To answer the question above, America was not left at a disadvantage compared to African countries after colonization because American citizens were white men and they weren’t the ones exploited like African natives. America would look completely different if white man never came, but I think it was inevitable.

My question for the next person: There’s lots of talk about what colonizing nations can do to “right their wrongs,” but what forms of modern colonization do we still see?

Boston, Massachusetts , US
Posts: 21

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

One justification has been offered for colonial rule was that the colonized people were supposedly unqualified to rule themselves. This explanation is clearly untrue, and is rooted in racism and a desire for wealth and political power.

In the case of King Leopold of Belgium, his desire for wealth and power does seem to be his motivation for colonization of the Congo. By exploiting the people who lived there and the natural resources of the region, he created a massive source of largely personal wealth that also served to increase his limited powers as a constitutional monarch. Racist propaganda was also widely used by the Belgian government and others in order to attempt to justify the horrors of colonialism to the country’s citizens.

The other European delegations to the Council of Berlin, which resulted in the colonization of nearly all of Africa, were driven by a similar type of greed, and the same indifference towards the lives of those who lived there. All of the countries that participated, especially England and France due to the size of their holdings, benefited from their profits made through the exploitation of their colonies.

The native peoples who were forced to endure colonial rule in Africa and other regions of the world suffered tremendously, both at the individual level and in systematic ways which are still being revealed today. During the European conquest of Africa about 150 years ago, many colonizers played pre-existing tribal rivalries or power struggles against each other in order to consolidate their own power. The favoring of certain groups over others during their rule helped the colonizing countries to maintain power, and created new inter-tribal tensions and stereotypes that have lasted to this day.

After reading Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost, the Belgian colonization of the Congo does seem to be the norm of colonization. While the exact type of suffering inflicted on the native population, such as the horrors of hostage-taking and rubber-collecting in the Congo, does differ across times and places, the end result is the same, in that the colonizing country becomes more powerful, and the people of the colonized country are brutalized and often turned against each other.

Previous Question: America doesn't seem to have been left at a disadvantage due to Britain's rule over us like other countries have been to their colonizers. If at all, do you think America would look different or be further/less along if we were never colonized by Britain?

I would answer this question by remembering that most of those who led the American revolution to break away from British rule were not victims of colonization, but rather the descendants of earlier British colonists who had profited through the system of colonial rule. Many of the leaders of the revolution had been highly successful as a result of the colonial system, but no longer wanted to share their profits and power with Great Britain. The victims of colonization in the US are undeniably the Native Americans, the enslaved people brought here by colonists, and their modern descendants.

Question for the next: Should countries that used to have colonies be expected to make reparations to the areas that they subjugated? Could this be beneficial to formerly colonized countries, or has too much damage already been done to make it more than a superficial gesture?

Boston, US
Posts: 15

In my opinion, there is little to no acceptable justifications of colonialism. In order to colonize an area, you have to be entering into land that isn't yours and then subordinating the people who's land you are actually on. An argument could be made that in some cases of colonialism the economy or infrastructure of the colony has benefited since colonization. However, I don't feel like this is a justification one can use as a support of colonization.

There are some benefits to colonialism, albeit almost entirely ones for the colonizers. Colonies do help establish a good economic system for the colonizers to make money off of other land. In some cases, the colonies themselves do benefit from better infrastructure or other things introduced by the colonizing nation. However, the colonizers are almost always the ones that benefit from the colonial system. They are the ones who make the profit and actually see the end product instead of the colonies. Ultimately, both parts of a colonial system can benefit from it, although most of the benefits are from the colony for the colonizer.

I would say the things that are described in the accounts from Belgian Congo are probably the extreme. The atrocities committed in Congo by the Belgian colonizers are some of the worst in history. The amount of death alone surpasses that of most other colonies. Many of the systems in place were effectively a more modern slavery. A large portion of the Congolese people in the colony were under direct control by the Belgians. The punishments faced were barbaric, like the cutting off of hands or the kidnapping of loved ones. The number of rebellions in the Congo during Leopold's reign of terror is also indicative of just how awful it was to live there. The system in Belgium is pretty much as bad as colonialism has ever gotten for those being colonized. I do definitely feel that while colonialism is a horrible practice, the Belgian Congo is also very much a negative extreme. Most other colonies never got quite as bad as they did in Belgium. While the end goal of any colony is to make the colonizers profit, the ruthlessness with which the Belgians tried to extract this profit was very extreme.

I feel like the colonization practices of Europeans in Africa has very much resulted in lots of damage across the continent. Africa has many of the poorest nations in the world, in many ways because of the nature of the colonization there. Many of the countries were also arbitrarily created by Europeans who had never set foot in Africa. This means that many of the borders and divisions of different African nations don't make very much sense. Many of the countries were left without stable economies or governments after the colonizers left. All of these factors combine to make it significantly harder for these countries to succeed. Things like apartheid in South Africa or widespread federal corruption are direct results of European colonization.

Should countries that used to have colonies be expected to make reparations to the areas that they subjugated? Could this be beneficial to formerly colonized countries, or has too much damage already been done to make it more than a superficial gesture?

This is a difficult question to answer. One one hand, many of these countries have been destroyed by colonialism and very much deserve some sort of compensation. For some places, it would very much not be a superficial gesture, especially given a large amount of money. However, making sure the compensation makes sense is a whole different question. While the colonizers should definitely pay some of the money, it also doesn't feel like it makes a ton of sense for individual countries to be 100% responsible for providing the compensation by themselves. There should be compensation for the nations most affected by colonialism, but who exactly should be compensating them feels more complicated. Another issue is that for some countries, the governments that would receive this money are incredibly corrupt, so there would be less of a guarantee that it would actually go back into helping the country itself. As a whole, however, I do feel like some sort of reparations or compensation would make sense.

As for my question: Do you have any thoughts about why the colonialism was so ruthless in Belgium compared to other places? Do you think the fact that it was Belgium's only colony had anything to do with it?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 16

"The Conquest of the not a pretty thing": Colonizing the Kongo

People throughout history have found several justifications for colonial expansion and control, all of which give them the idea that they have the right to rule over any nation. Imperialist countries have wanted to spread their religions to other areas, gain economic benefits from a nation’s location or natural resources, grow their influence in the world by expanding their territory, or were motivated by an idea of racial superiority. None of these justifications are actually valid for invading a nation and destroying the lives of its people. The only reason for colonialism is greed, which cannot be given an excuse for.

Oftentimes, colonialism will bring more economic prosperity to the nation, as the country expanding its rule will bring with it its trade partners and relationships with other countries. However, the only people truly benefiting from this are colonizers, and it is at the expense of the cheap labor provided by the indigenous people of the area. In the relationship between the “colonizers” and the “colonized”, the colonialist nation reaps the products and revenue that is the result of the brutal mistreatment and forced sacrifice of the colonized nation. The colonialist nations saw the continent of Africa as nothing more than an opportunity to grow their empire and accumulate wealth, completely disregarding the people and communities that made up the various tribes and groups that already lived there. The people were viewed as expendable and less than human, and that is shown when the leaders of these colonialist countries gathered together at the Berlin conference to divide and claim different territories, notably without the presence of representatives from Africa or any consideration of the preexisting territories.

Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost describes the racist sentiment that was ever-present in the Congo under imperialist rule. The Belgian king Leopold was recorded to have declared to an American reporter, “In dealing with a race composed of cannibals for thousands of years it is necessary to use methods which will best shake their idleness and make them realize the sanctity of work.” This view was a norm in the eyes of the colonizers, who ruthlessly exploited the people of the Congo for their socio-economic benefit. Colonialism was extreme in various aspects, including the punishment that was given for any slight inconvenience for a colonizer. Adam Hochschild mentions Stanislas Lefranc, a devout Catholic, monarchist, and Belgian prosecutor. While in the Congo, he had heard that when children had laughed in the presence of a white man, the man “ordered that all the servant boys in town be given fifty lashes.” Lefranc was only able to prevent the second installment of twenty-five lashes from happening.

Obviously, after being taken over and treated as slave laborers, the colonization of Africa severely changed people’s lifestyles, not to mention collectively it severely stunted the growth of the economies of these nations. Short term, African countries were faced with rebuilding their society that had been taken away from them and changed to fit European lifestyles. Long term, many African nations continue to struggle economically, and are still decades behind “first world” countries that have been independent from or benefitting from the profits that colonization in Africa gave the colonizing nations. The lasting impacts of colonization is something that cannot easily be repaid, however the colonizing nations should take responsibility for their actions. The colonizing nations have become major influences in the world economy, and offering opportunities to their former colonial subjects might help make the process of rebuilding their economies more accessible.

Response to RockPigeon: I think that countries should be expected to repay their former colonies, as they extracted so much from their colonies and gave practically nothing back in return. There are many formerly colonized countries that are still struggling, and this can be directly connected to the colonialism that took place. Though colonialism may not be the only reason that these countries are struggling, it definitely put them on a difficult path to move away from. It is true that a lot of damage has been done, and even if a gesture seems superficial, I think that if former colonizer countries are offering something that would genuinely be helpful and not a petty sum of money, it would benefit the formerly colonized countries.

My question for the next person: What do you think that colonizing nations like Great Britain or Belgium would be like today if they hadn’t colonized African countries? Would they be poorer, richer, or the same? How significant was colonization in their rise to success?

Dorchester, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

Often we see justifications for colonization to be the idea of civilizing others or spread of religion, which are both ideas rooted from social Darwinism and the idea of "the white mans burden". Political leaders like to use these two ideas mostly to try and gain the trust and approval of the general public. In the case of King Leopold he tried to make his reputation a good one and put himself out there as a philanthropist and humanitarian and someone who generally cared about spreading religious ideas for the better of these "uncivilized people" but in reality he was only trying to make a profit off their land and crops/goods. We can see this play out in his letter to the parliament amidst a debate over the Congo state; "...". From this quote I also noticed this pattern of the colonizers wanting something but not wanting to work for it, which is very evident not only in the colonization of Africa but also in Latin America, the encounter with Native Americans in the U.S and slavery in the U.S. They wanted to change and "civilize" these people so much but in reality they wouldn't have established or came up with the very foundations of most of these countries without the labor and expertise of the Native people.

What is described in this reading is the norm, it is the same story where a colonizer, someone putting on this facade where they are going to "civilize" the natives, comes into a new and foreign country and exploits and abuses their power that they always believe has jurisdiction out side of their country. And the outcome in this case is the same as in other cases before and after it. People are forced into labor to take the very materials and food that they worked so hard to make, and to destroy their own lands just so a person sitting on a throne in Europe can make a profit.

Some long-lasting effects colonization had in Africa were things like the new borders, the splitting up of tribes/migration of tribes and the European dialects found inside their languages. The colonization set back Africa in their development, they lost so much land and materials, and they weren't able to industrialize as much as other countries were able to or politically develop which helped form the basis of many of the civil war and bad political structures in Africa today. I think that because these European countries played such a big role in this, they should offer refuge for people in African countries that are currently going through civil wars, and they also should provide constant resources like clean water systems, and any other supplies that they might be lacking that needs a long term plan. But, not only does this need to happen in Africa it also needs to happen in Latin America, and in our very own country.

To answer staph's question about Puerto Rico, I think that they should be offered the same constitutional rights that are offered to all other 50 states because America wants to lay claim on it but not actually take responsibility, it is sad that they are technically a U.S territory but still don't get the same rights as we do.

My question: How does Liberia fit into all this, what should America do to give reparations, if you even think they should?

Posts: 16

I don’t believe that there is any possible justification for colonial control over any nation. To take control of the land and population without any consultation with the people who own that land, then to exert your will and influence upon those peoples for no reason other than your need for resources and power, is simply cruelty. The reason provided for these horrific acts was often that the native people ‘needed’ to be colonized and ruled, but that idea is rooted in racism and bigotry, not fact.

There are no true benefits to colonialism to the colonized. Even in less extreme cases to that of King Leopold, colonization leads to despair and strife throughout the native community, often breaking apart families and resulting in disaster. The colonizers gain wealth, influence, and power while the people from these colonies become more and more oppressed, only being seen as a resource rather than human beings deserving of a voice in politics or even basic rights. Although some beneficial infrastructure could be built as a result, as well as the sharing of ideas, overall it is most certainly one of the most damaging ways to do so for the people and the area.

What is described in the reading from Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is somewhat indicative of the norms of colonialism. The oppression of the people is essentially a requirement of colonialism as a concept. One thing that especially stuck out to me was the seemingly immediate acceptance of violence being used to coerce the native population into doing certain things. The idea of the colonizers being indifferent to the use of violence, using both the whip and maiming those who even slightly stepped out of line. They didn’t see any problem with that barbarity, nor the kidnapping of family members for coercion.

That indifference to people getting hurt is also seen in many other colonizing endeavors, most specifically like the British colonizing America and the resulting violence and cultural genocide to follow centuries afterwards. The thing that makes this somewhat indicative rather than fully is the fact that there is a case to be made that this is the extreme in the sense that the sheer amount of violence was certainly found to be higher than the average colony, and specifically the barbaric means that this violence was carried out. All colonialism is harmful, but we see a higher amount of inhumanity and indifference to violence in this case.

The colonization of Africa was incredibly harmful, which we can still see today. The short-term effects were initially harmful anyway — the violence and pillaging of resources. Even in areas that are no longer as heavily influenced by formed colonizers, the trauma of colonialism can still be seen in very significant ways. Instability and poverty are directly linked to colonialism. These areas went from being directly controlled and pillaged for resources to the continuation of pillaging those resources today with little benefit for the nations. Many colonizers would also play up a native populations’ differences to maintain control, leaving tensions and border conflicts. This instability is based only on the exploitation of colonialism.

How does Liberia fit into all this, what should America do to give reparations, if you even think they should?

Due to America’s long history of not only initially invading Liberia with the American Colonization Society but also continuously intervening in their internal affairs, I think that America should certainly give reparations to the country. The US essentially has tried to manipulate the nation and I think it would be best to ask the citizens of the country what would be beneficial to them rather than to generally guess.

My question: How do you think America and other colonizing nations should more publicly take responsibility for both their histories of colonization as well as modern colonialism?

Posts: 13

Social darwinism has driven many in the past to justify colonization—after all, colonized people supposedly aren’t as advanced in mass production or in technology because they are simply underdeveloped humans. Therefore, colonizing such places allows the colonizers to share their technology, to civilize an “uncivilized” population, and to convert people to Christianity so that they will learn the ways of more biologically fit people. We know now that social darwinism is not only false, but it tries to employ science to support white supremacist and racist ideas. For the colonizers, they benefit from colonization because they receive large areas of land to exploit for profit, peoples whom they can force to do work for them, and even more freedom to enact inhumane but profitable laws without an established government that will challenge them. For the colonized, on the other hand, they may receive support in developing their nation and centralizing their trade through a few staple materials or crops. Additionally, they may receive influence from their colonizers to adopt specific religious practices, laws, and class or government structures.

The reading seems to paint an extremist picture of colonization, but it truly depicts the norm. When we think of colonization, we don’t immediately think of chopped hands, the throwing and abandonment of colonized children, or the chicotte whip that was used to discipline the people of the Congo. But the situation in the Congo is just one of many—America has also had a similar wretched history with their own indigenous people, putting bounties on Native scalps, forcing them into plantation work, and driving them away from their own homes. Leopold was an example of someone who was constantly hungry for power and profit, resulting in the dehumanizing treatment of Congo people and land. He instructed officials to kidnap seniors and women from Congo groups to force people to farm for rubber in exchange for their loved ones back. This hunger for more profit drives many other situations of colonialism into inhumane treatment, as colonizers are too blinded by the desires for upward mobility and power to have the empathy to care about what’s happening to the indigenous groups that have always called the land their home.

The short-term effects of the colonization of Africa relies on where the profit ended up. The profit obtained from the forced labor of African people did not return to the African countries, but instead to the colonizers who claimed the profit for themselves. Without the financial needs, this prevented African groups from further developing their homes. In the long term, many of these colonizers converted African people to Christianity, and the religion is still practiced in Africa today. Additionally, the borders of countries in Africa today are the result of a conference of nations such as Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Italy, etc. that split the continent into parts that don’t necessarily correspond with the African groups that lived there. This led to a loss of cultural connection among groups due to political borders that separated them during colonization. The colonizers have a responsibility to apologize to Africa for manipulating their resources and people, and for restricting their development—culturally, politically, and economically– as a continent. They also should be responsible for providing these former colonies with financial support and resources for them to get back on their feet as independent nations.

Past Question: How do you think America and other colonizing nations should more publicly take responsibility for both their histories of colonization as well as modern colonialism?

One of the first steps for America to take more public responsibility for its history of colonization, for example with the Native peoples, would be to educate Americans about such things. Many politicians today are afraid to paint American in a bad light, but it is also important that we recognize that America, despite being a model nation, is not perfect and should not be hiding the shameful history that has brought us all here today. As for how America should address modern colonialism, we should also be speaking out against it.

My question: What are some ways that Africa build itself back together after its colonization?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 18

I believe that there is no justification for colonial control. The invasion and exploitation of entire cultures and people is inexcusable. That is not to say that colonizers didn’t try to justify their actions. At the time of the colonization of the Congo, Social Darwinism and the idea of a “white man’s burden” played a major role in public campaigns in Europe to get people to support colonization. Religion also played a role as missionaries and other leaders sought to convert colonized peoples to Christianity especially. King Leopold’s Ghost described the horrific children’s colonies established by Catholics in the Congo. Political leaders used these excuses painted a picture that they were “saving” Africa, when in truth they were decimating much of the continent and aiding in the deaths of millions of people.

The benefits of colonialism are entirely skewed to the side of the colonizer. Colonizing countries reap economic benefits and increased power, but colonized peoples often get nothing but violence. As can be seen in examples through nearly every colonized country, coerced labor is often used by colonial powers to exploit both the people and resources in a colony. As described in King Leopold’s Ghost, Kongolese people were threatened and killed in order for Belgium and King Leopold to gain large amounts of valuable ivory and rubber. The very nature of how Africa was divided up between colonizing powers is evident of this exploitative relationship. At the Berlin Conference the entire continent was carved up across a mix of natural borders and arbitrary lines by a room of people who had almost no information about the people and land which they were claiming. From the very beginning, these powers had no intention of doing anything “good” in Africa, and merely saw the continent as a way to gain an economic and power advantage over other colonizing countries. This attitude strongly contributed to the colonial governing systems which then took all benefits for themselves.

The events described the the book King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild are indicative of the horrific norms of colonialism. The practices detailed can be found in examples of colonization around the world. The colonization of the Congo saw the forced labor of millions in order to economically exploit the region. Women, elders, and children were frequently kidnapped and held hostage in order to coerce able bodied men to fulfill quotas in exchange for their lives, though many died or were killed anyway. The chicotte was used across the colony as a form of terror both for those who were abused and the Kongolese who the Belgian officers forced to inflict the wounds. The book also describes the lack of hesitation with which soldiers would kill people being forced to work as porter if they didn’t fully and immediately comply. Even in situations where they weren’t murdered directly by an officer, many died from exhaustion or dehydration while transporting goods. These systems of terror and forced labor were not unique to the Congo or even to the colonization of Africa. Similar practices were used by Portugal and Spain in the colonization of the Americas as well. King Leopold also convinced groups of Catholics in the Congo to set up children’s colonies where children, many of whom had lost both of their parents to Belgian violence, were forced to go. Many died in the camps or in the journey to them, and those who didn’t were turned into soldiers for the army. This definitely reminded me of the boarding schools created in the US for Native American children who were also forcibly removed from their homes and cultures. These specific atrocities committed in the Congo during colonization were tragically no unique or extreme cases but rather are indicative of a pattern across the globe.

The short and long term effects of colonization in Africa on the development of countries on the continent are endless. Socially and politically, European countries carved up the continent along arbitrary lines, dividing and combining ethnic groups in ways which have led to many violent conflicts such as the Rwandan genocide. Economically, colonizers left the continent depleted of natural resources and a stable structure, which was then further destabilized by political conflict. This has also led many large multinational corporations to turn to Africa for cheap labor, continuing control by rich and powerful people from Europe especially over the continent. Despite how its often discussed, decolonization of Africa was relatively recent and the effects have definitely not faded, and likely won’t in the near future.

In response to someepiphany’s question, I definitely think colonizing nations need to take greater public responsibility for their histories. As Ms.Freeman discussed in her MLK day presentation, the US has done poorly with even attempting to repair the atrocities committed in and by this country. Unfortunately, it is not alone. Too few people are aware of the scope or impact of colonization, especially more recently, and countries taking public responsibility would definitely help to spread awareness, and hopefully lead to concrete action to try and account for what happened.

My question for the next person is: In what ways do we still see colonization today, just under different names or faces?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

King Leopold's Ghost

Question to answer: How do you think America and other colonizing nations should more publicly take responsibility for both their histories of colonization as well as modern colonialism?

I think that America and other colonizing nations should acknowledge the past and try to make up for it as best as they can. As for modern colonialism, I think that regulations should be made to ensure that the colonizers don't overpower the colonized nation, and that they don't overly dominate it, and take all of the money they receive from the nation's resources.

After reading the excerpt from King Leopold's Ghost, in my opinion, there isn't really a justification for colonial control over a nation. You could say that they just wanted to industrialize and expand their territories, since countries were competing for more dominance and who would be the world's "leader", but the way they exploited the native people of the colonized nation and enslaved them is completely inhumane. I believe that the only benefit to colonialism was the spread of ideas and new technological advancements across the world. This helped less developed countries gain more ideas and influences. From the arrangement, the colonialist nation in charge gets all the praise, resources, benefits, money, and power. They dominate over the native people that live in these colonies and exploit them and their resources. The colonized nation gets taken advantage of, the spread of disease, and in theory, more economic stability as they will be a key export/import hub. I think that what is described in King Leopold's Ghost is indicative of the norm of colonialism. Obviously there were more extreme cases and circumstances. But the way the Berlin Conference treated Africa as a "cake that should be cut up and divided" is awful. There was no African representative in the conference, so the European nations such as Portugal, Spain, Great Britain, France, and others took parts of Africa for themselves and their own gain. They exploited, took advantage of, abused, etc. these nations. For example, King Leopold of Belgium used African mercenaries in his army, and had people build big children's colonies made up of "the most male children possible". In my view, I think the colonization on Africa had many negative effects on African nations. Many of them are financially unstable, need to be more industrialized, including more healthcare, education, etc. Some long-term effects are economic degradation, political instability, and the effects of exploitation. After many of the colonizing nations left Africa during the Cold War, the colonized nations were left with very little. The colonizers took everything from them, with nothing in return for the use of their land and resources. I think that the colonizers have a responsibility to acknowledge this ugly history and give some economic aid to these nations. Obviously, this will not take away the pain, oppression, and hurt that many people's ancestors endured, but it can help African nations get ahead financially and industrially, and be more stable.

My Question: How do we deal with the modern day colonies today? They obviously aren't exploited as much, but should the colonized nations have more power, and what steps should be taken to enforce these rules?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 17

European or Western nations justify colonial control for many reasons. They saw colonialism as a way to economically support their country and use new lands for new resources and therefore commerce. Another way of thinking is that these colonists are helping a ‘savage race’ or people. Introducing western ways of life and work. This highlights the social Darwinist ideas white colonists shared.

Colonialism was seen as positive but was involuntary for many civilians and created dangerous environments. As I mentioned before, colonialism benefited colonialist nations because of how they used the resources found for profit. On the other hand, they attained such resources through the exploitation of the natives of the land. As described in the reading Africans were used for not only ivory gathering but rubber collection and were abused and whipped for little to no reason and also received practically no monetary benefits. The colonized nations were swept with hysteria as there was no communication as to what was occurring. Overall there was not a symbiotic relationship between the colonizers and colonized.

The reading highlights the reality of colonialism. The abuses and inhumane treatment enacted or directed by colonist officials is extreme but the norm in these lands. In Congo, they established African porters who were exposed to horrendous conditions. They would be chained to one another, and walk with pounds of stuff or loads on their backs. One major form of discipline was with the whip known as chicotte. It wouldn’t be uncommon to witness some kind of execution or violence towards the natives of the land. There was also sexual and physical abuse towards women. Under Leopold’s rule Africans were used and exploited only for profit and benefit.

I feel that colonization has impacted Africa with its overall slow development and violence. To this day there is a lot of gang violence and sexual violence and overall danger. These lingering effects are presented in the modern day and colonization nations should recognize the damage they have caused. Some people do not see colonization in a negative light and see it as a form of igniting development but this way of thinking diminishes the racial superiority that was active and its impact.

In today's world colonies should be taken care of and not only used and exploited. Colonized nations should have more power or say in what occurs on their lands and the profit made in effect of those lands. We should be aware of modern-day colonies and the long-lasting impacts colonization has had all over the world.

Question: Is it rational to think colonizers genuinely believed they were doing more good than harm?

Posts: 10

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

Colonial powers would justify their conquests by claiming they had a legal or religious obligation to take over the land & culture of indigenous peoples, but this isn't moral. The main reasons a nation would seek out colonization was either to spread religion or to claim new lands for resources. I think Europe’s justification of colonization of The New World is interesting because it happened during the age of exploration. But this age was driven by necessity, Europe had relied on Asia for goods & when trade routes were put under threat by the rise in power of the Ottoman empire, Europe came up with the solution to secure trade routes with Asia by seeking routes by sea. Christopher Columbus, thinking he was on his way to Asia, came across three islands in the Caribbean. In this situation, some might think Europe was justified in colonization because their main trading routes were threatened, therefore they needed to look for goods & resources elsewhere. But no matter the situation a nation might be in, taking over a land & its people’s culture could never be justified.

There are definitely benefits for the colonialist nation, they gain more land which means also gaining the land’s resources. In addition they might spread their religion, it's not guaranteed they’ll be successful but most of the time they are through threats & violence. Gaining more land is also a benefit to the nation's military. The military could recruit more soldiers, which would lead to larger & stronger armies. If the land of the colonized nation is far enough & closer to an enemy nation, they could build a military base in order to be closer. As for the colonized nation, no benefits are guaranteed except for maybe protection from the colonialist nation but this really only counts as a benefit if the nation was weak on its own/being threatened by another nation. This is a trick question since it depends on a lot of factors. Maybe the nations both agreed for one to take control over the other in exchange for things like protection or benefits for the people, but of course this would only apply if the nation kept their promise. Like Puerto Rico, it has been legally a part of the US as a result of the Spanish-American war in 1898. There is a US military base established there but Puerto Ricans do get some US benefits. Every Puerto Rican born individual is naturally a US citizen & are eligible for Social Security benefits upon retirement, but they don't get every benefit I believe they should get the right to. PR is excluded from the Supplemental Security Income, the island also actually receives less than 15% of the Medicaid funding it would normally receive if it were a U.S. state which is ridiculous considering the US takes advantage of every resource they could possibly gain from PR.

What is described in the reading from Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost indicative of the norms of colonialism. Some might say the book depicts the extremes of colonialism but the upsetting reality is they see it as extreme because when we are taught of colonialism, they don't teach us about the real horrors people went through, like getting their hand cut off for not producing enough rubber. Or having your wife and children being killed or kidnapped for not having that rubber in time. The late Chadwick Boseman once said “Colonialism is the cousin of slavery.” I fully agree with this quote since the people in a colonized nation may not exactly be slaves but they are far from being free. I feel like the way those living in a nation that is then colonized are treated is overlooked, and that it's something no one thinks to question but Adam Hochschild’s book does a good job of finally bringing something like this to light.

To answer the previous question, I dont think it's rational to think colonizers genuinely believed they were doing more good than harm. They knew they were doing good for their own nation and that they would thrive from colonization. Colonizers are selfish, and it's not a surprise they would only think in their own nation. Its not wrong, as a King or leader, to want more land or resources. But it is wrong, as a human being, to go about this the wrong way like many leaders have done in the past. King Leopold is only one of many examples you could look for in history.

My question for the next:

On June 8 2022, Belgian King Philippe expressed regrets for the colonization of the Congo free state (now DRC), do you think this apology was enough from the King? If not, what could he have possibly said to or done for DRC? Do you think DRC should forgive the state of Belgium?

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