Thursday, September 17, 2009

Leopold II, "King of the Belgians" and his Congo

Leopold's humanitarian image was undermined by the unusually brutal methods used on natives in the Congo.

Leopold's imperial ambitions benefitted from a significant upturn in the demand for (natural) rubber at the turn of the last century. Rubber hoses, wire insulation and (especially) bicycle tires drove the demand-side of the economic equation. Unfortunately for natives of the Congo, Leopold soon saw competition on the horizon from domesticated rubber plantations in southeast Asia and South America. The competition drove Leopold's agents to more and more brutal means of extraction--means which included severed hands and feet.

Unique in the imperial world, the "Congo Free State" was the personal property of Leopold himself, not the government or the people. This style of ownership allowed Leopold and his operatives in Africa a remarkably free hand in the extraction of latex.

1 comment:

  1. I cannot understand why they allow statues of him to stay erected... What he did was worse than Hitler and the holocaust - At least that was based on some kind of ideology be it twisted and evil. But to enslave an entire population for personal gain? What Karma must this man's decendents carry on their shoulders? And to think that today Brussels and Belgium is seen as some kind of flag for civilisation and progress - have they given anything back - their ill gotten gains. After all they benefited massively when King Leopold surrendered his control and his personal estates. That wealth is dirty money...