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  • King Leopold's Ghost

  • A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
  • Written by: Adam Hochschild
  • Narrated by: Geoffrey Howard
  • Length: 12 hrs and 34 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (62 ratings)

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King Leopold's Ghost

Written by: Adam Hochschild
Narrated by: Geoffrey Howard
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Publisher's Summary

In the late 1890s, Edmund Dene Morel, a young British shipping company agent, noticed something strange about the cargoes of his company's ships as they arrived from and departed for the Congo, Leopold II's vast new African colony. Incoming ships were crammed with valuable ivory and rubber. Outbound ships carried little more than soldiers and firearms.

Correctly concluding that only slave labor on a vast scale could account for these cargoes, Morel resigned from his company and almost singlehandedly made Leopold's slave-labor regime the premier human rights story in the world. Thousands of people packed hundreds of meetings throughout the United States and Europe to learn about Congo atrocities. Two courageous black Americans - George Washington Williams and William Sheppard - risked much to bring evidence to the outside world. Roger Casement, later hanged by Britain as a traitor, conducted an eye-opening investigation of the Congo River stations.

Sailing into the middle of the story was a young steamboat officer named Joseph Conrad. And looming over all was Leopold II, King of the Belgians, sole owner of the only private colony in the world.

©1998 Adam Hochschild (P)2010 Random House
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What the critics say

"Hochschild's fine book of historical inquiry, which draws heavily on eyewitness accounts of the colonialists' savagery, brings this little-studied episode in European and African history into new light." (Amazon.com review)
"Hochschild's superb, engrossing chronicle focuses on one of the great, horrifying and nearly forgotten crimes of the century: greedy Belgian King Leopold II's rape of the Congo, the vast colony he seized as his private fiefdom in 1885....[M]ost of all it is a story of the bestiality of one challenged by the heroism of many in an increasingly democratic world." ( Publishers Weekly)

What listeners say about King Leopold's Ghost

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Eye-opening.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It took me several months to get through it. I stopped and started several times. I think it's an important book about part of History than most people don't know. The author did a great job explaining. The narrator did a good job too. Who knew such evil existed before Hitler?

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Very lnformative, shameful and sad . Well read.

The book disonnects one thread in the web which hides what Europeans have done to other inhabitants of this planet. It's a paradox that Europeans do such evil yet have brought many beneficial technologies to the world. it is also strange that it is mostly other Europeans who are the ones to correct these wrongs. It's also odd that others are replicating their evil. Humans...

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Well researched exploration of an African genocide

This book was an introduction to the genocides in the Congo to me. The topic is presented in a very consumable and logical manner. Well referenced and framed without being dry. Through accounts of people witness to and affected by the atrocities it really shows the human aftermath of the colonial history.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic, narrative history of a horrifying past

Without qualification, Hochschild is one of the most exceptionally talented historians of his day, and here he has an presented a highly listenable, down-to-Earth and horrifying look at a past that a lot of people have tried to keep buried. He presents a deep dive into the Congo Free State, and its earned status as probably the single biggest tragedy and devastation of the colonial, imperialist mindset that ran Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries. He draws extensively from primary sources, statistics, emphasizes African voices (so often silenced throughout history) wherever he can reliably find them, and trusts his audience enough to be horrified by the crimes of the CFS that he doesn't need to condemn them every fifth second. And he does this in a way that is genuinely informative for the reader, helps him tell the story that Leopold tried to keep silent, and shows us all how responsible history is conducted.

Perhaps his greatest talent is Hochschild's ability to look into the minds of twisted, corrupted men (Henry Morton Stanley and Leopold himself being the key figures) through their written words and actions. Listening to him dig into the twisted logic that drove these men to commit the abject crimes that they did paints a vivid picture of a system where—as long as you have money and cloak your words in those of a saviour—almost nobody will look at you twice.

The only two marks I'll knock off for the book are that the chapter marks are out of sync with the actual chapters, and the audio quality—being recorded almost 20 years ago—leaves something to be desired. Otherwise, Howard's voice is immediately grasping and his enunciation and tone gives this story the exact kind of narrator Hochschild presents: a measured, smooth tone that contrasts really well with the abject horror he's describing.

Otherwise, this book is phenomenal. Revolutionary for narrative non-fiction, an excellent source for serious students of history, and a much-needed and welcome approach to making sure we don't forget, as Hochschild says, "one of the greatest human rights atrocities of the 20th century".

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A hard but interesting listen.

Just a wonderfully done history on the Congo. Must have taken ages to research and compile all this info in the book. Always hard to hear how one group can treat another group. Very interesting that there was such an outcry about the Congo because it was little Belgium doing the colonizing when apparently the practices used were the same ones used by the larger powers as well.
I enjoyed the bright spots in the book like when George Washington Williams was living in the Congo and treated the local people with respect and did really well living and learning from them.

Enjoy everyone!

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

I'm only critiquing the audio and not the story

The audio experience of this book was horrendous. I sometimes do both reading and listening at the same time but the organization of the audio was horrible. The chapters did not line up with the chapters of the book or even the chapters in the audio Table of Contents. It was really frustrating. Also, the narrator would repeat a sentence, the tone of voice changed and it drove me crazy. It was all quite sloppily done.

I recommend you just read the book.

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2 people found this helpful