Leopold ll of Belgium

Leopold II of Belgium


colonies of our own, beautiful and calm…”


First 30 years


Note that all text in Black Bold Regular Times New Roman font has been corroborated. Information in any other colour or font was only found in one source.

Leopold II of the Belgians was born (4,10) in Brussels (4,12) on 9th April 1835. (4,10) Belgium itself was only about five years old . (12) His full name in French was Léopold-Louis-Philippe-Marie-Victor, and in Dutch Leopold Lodewijk Filips Maria Victor. (12) He was the second, (4) but eldest surviving, (4,12) son of Leopold I (4,10) the first king of the independent Belgium, (10,12) and his second wife (12) Louise (4) [OR] Louise-Marie (12) of Orléans, (4,12) the daughter of King Louis Philippe of France. (14) As Leopold’s older brother, also named Louis Philippe, had died the year before Leopold’s birth, Leopold was heir to the throne from his birth. (14) He was the brother of Charlotte, Empress of Mexico. (10) Leopold spent his days doing all of the things a European prince would be expected to do before ascending to the throne of a minor state: learning to ride and shoot, and taking part in state ceremonies. (13) He was described by his cousin Queen Victoria as an ‘unfit, idle and unpromising an heir apparent as ever was known’ and by Disraeli as having ‘such a nose as a young prince has in a fairy tale, who has been banned by a malignant fairy. (15) When he was 9, Leopold received the title of Duke of Brabant, and was appointed a sub-lieutenant (14) in the army. (12,13) He served in the army until his accession in 1865, by which time he had reached the rank of lieutenant-general. (14) When he was 13 the French Revolution of 1848, which spared Belgium, forced his father –in-law to flee to the United Kingdom (14) ruled by Leopold’s cousin, Queen Victoria. (10,12) where he died two years later, in 1850. (14) Leopold’s fragile mother was deeply affected by the death of her father, and her health deteriorated. (14) His mother died of tuberculosis when Leopold was 15 years old. (14) He became duke of Brabant in 1846 and served in the Belgian army. (12) His public career began on his attaining the age of majority in 1855, when he became a member of the Belgian Senate. (14)


In Brussels (14) on August 22nd (10,14) 1853, he married (10,12) an Austrian princess, (10,13) [OR] Archduchess1 (10) Marie-Henriette (12,14) [OR] Marie Henriette Anne von Habsburg-Lothringen, (10) daughter of the Austrian archduke Joseph, (12,14) palatine of Hungary. (12) She was a cousin of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, and granddaughter of Leopold II, the last Holy Roman Emperor. (14) She was lively and energetic, and endeared herself to the people by her character and benevolence, and her beauty gained for her the sobriquet of “The Rose of Brabant”. (14) She was also an accomplished artist and musician. (14) She was passionate about horseback riding to the point that she would care for her horses personally. (14) Some joked about this “marriage of a stableman and a nun”, the shy and withdrawn Leopold referred to as the nun. (14)


Four children were born of this marriage, three daughters and one son, also named Leopold. (14) The eldest was a daughter, Louise-Marie Amélie, who was born at Brussels on February 18th, 1858 and died at Wiesbaden March 1st, 1924. (10) Their son Léopold (10,14) Ferdinand Elie Victor Albert Marie, count of Hainaut (as eldest son of the heir apparent), duke of Brabant (as heir apparent), was born at Laeken on June 12th, 1859, (10) and died (10,14) at Laeken on January 22nd, (10) 1869 (10,14) at the age of nine (14) from pneumonia, after falling into a pond. (10,14) His death was a source of great sorrow for King Leopold, who had lost his only heir. (14) The marriage became unhappy, and the couple separated completely after a last attempt to have another son, a union that resulted in the birth of their last daughter Clementine. (14) Marie Henriette retreated to Spa in 1895, and died there in 1902. (14)


He became King (4,12) of the Belgians on his father’s death in December (12,14) 10th (14) in 1865. (4,12) Leopold took the oath of office on December 17th, in his thirtieth year. (14)

Domestic Politics

The domestic affairs of his reign were marked by a number of major political developments. (14) There was a growing conflict between the Liberal and Catholic parties over suffrage and education issues. (12,14) The Liberal Party governed Belgium from 1857 to 1880, and during its final year in power legislated the Frère-Orban Law of 1879. (14) This law created free, secular, compulsory primary schools supported by the state and withdrew all state support from Roman Catholic primary schools. (14) The Catholic Party obtained a parliamentary majority in 1880, and four years later restored state support to Catholic schools. (14) In 1885, various socialist and social democratic groups drew together and formed the Labour Party. (14) Increasing social unrest and the rise of the Labour Party forced the adoption of universal male suffrage in 1893. (14) During Leopold’s reign other social changes were enacted into law. (14) Among these were the right of workers to form labour unions and the abolition of the livret d’ouvrier, an employment record book. (14) Laws against child labour were passed. (14) Children younger than 12 were not allowed to work in factories, children younger than 16 were not allowed to work at night, and women younger than 21 years old were not allowed to work underground. (14) Workers gained the right to be compensated for workplace accidents, and were given Sundays off. (14) The first revision of the Belgian constitution came in 1893. (14) Universal male suffrage was introduced, though the effect of this was tempered by plural voting. (14) The eligibility requirements for the senate were reduced, and elections would be based on a system of proportional representation, which continues to this day. (14) Leopold ruled with the kind of soft touch Belgians expected from their king in the wake of the multiple revolutions and reforms that had democratized the country over the preceding few decades. (13) [OR] Leopold pushed strongly to pass a royal referendum, whereby the king would have the power to consult the electorate directly on an issue, and use his veto according to the results of the referendum. (14) The proposal was rejected, as it would have given the king the power to override the elected government. (14) Leopold was so disappointed that he considered abdication. (14)


Leopold emphasized military defence as the basis of neutrality, (10,14) and strove to make Belgium less vulnerable militarily (14) by developing the country’s defences. (12) Aware that (12) Belgian neutrality, maintained (12,14) in a period of unusual difficulty and danger (14) during the Franco-German War (12,14) (1870–71) (12) was imperilled by the increasing strength of France and Germany, he persuaded parliament in 1887 to finance strong fortifications in the eastern part of the country (12) at Liège, Namur, (12,14) and Antwerp. (14) These succeeded in slowing the advance of German troops in 1914 at the beginning of World War I, (12) On his death bed a universal conscription law was at last passed. (10,12) Under the old system of Remplacement, the Belgian army was a combination of volunteers and a lottery, and it was possible for men to pay for substitutes for service. (14) This was replaced by a system in which one son in every family would have to serve in the military. (14)

The Scramble for Africa

In 1870 more than 80 percent of Africa south of the Sahara was under the rule of indigenous chiefs or kings, (12) but the ‘Scramble for Africa’ was taking place. (10,12) This is the name given to the competition between the European powers in the 19th Century to acquire land in Africa. (10) By 1910 virtually all of it had been transformed into European colonies, protectorates, or territories ruled by white settlers. (12) The motivation for this was a complex mix of economic necessity for resources, the lure of empire and racist attitudes of superiority that assumed Africans were further down the ladder of social evolution and required guidance and supervision until they matured enough to govern themselves, if they were indeed capable of this. (10) Belgium was a small and, having only been founded in 1830, (10) relatively young country (8,10) during Leopold’s ascension2 to power. (8) It did not possess numerous overseas colonies, unlike its neighbours, Holland, France and Great Britain. (10)

Leopold and the Scramble

Leopold had first attended the Belgian Senate in 1855. (14) He took particular interest in matters concerning the development of Belgium and its trade, (14) and began to urge Belgium’s acquisition of colonies. (12,14) He wanted Belgium to have an Empire like other European countries. (7,8) He was convinced, like most statesmen of his time, that a nation’s greatness was directly proportional to the amount of wealth it could get from equatorial colonies, and he wanted Belgium to have as much as possible before other countries came along and tried to take it. (13) In 1888 he wrote to his brother, Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, that “the country must be strong and prosperous, and so have colonies of her own, beautiful and calm”. (14)

Philippine Venture

He worked tirelessly to acquire colonial territory for Belgium. (8,10) Leopold travelled extensively abroad from 1854 to 1865, visiting India, China, Egypt, and the countries on the Mediterranean coast of Africa. (14) [OR] He never set foot in Africa. (6,9) First, in 1866 (13,14) Leopold instructed the Belgian ambassador in Madrid to speak to (14) Queen Isabella II of Spain (13,14) about ceding the Philippines to Belgium. (14) Knowing the situation fully, the ambassador did nothing. (14) Leopold quickly replaced the ambassador with a more sympathetic individual to carry out his plan. (14) He tried to purchase, then to steal, (8) the Philippines (8,13), but his efforts failed (8,13) when Isabella was overthrown in 1868. (13,14) That’s when (13) he started talking about Africa. (12,13) [OR] Leopold tried to press his original plan to acquire the Philippines. (14) But without funds, he was unsuccessful. (14) Leopold then devised another unsuccessful plan to establish the Philippines as an independent state, which could then be ruled by a Belgian. (14) After a number of unsuccessful schemes for colonies in Africa or Asia, (10) and with both of the Philippine plans having failed, (14) Leopold shifted his aspirations of colonisation to Africa. (12,14) He led the first European efforts to develop the Congo River basin. (12)

Tippu Tip

The conquest started with3 Leopold bolstering his relatively weak position by making alliances with local powers. (13) Chief among these was the Arab slave trader Tippu Tip. (13) Tip’s group had a considerable presence on the ground and sent regular shipments of slaves and ivory down to the Zanzibar coast. (13) This made Tip a rival to Leopold II, and the Belgian king’s pretence of ending slavery in Africa made any negotiation awkward. (13) Nevertheless, Leopold II eventually appointed Tip as a provincial governor in exchange for his non-interference in the king’s colonization of the western regions. (13) Tip used his position to ramp up his slave trading and ivory hunting, and the generally anti-slavery European public brought pressure on Leopold II to break it off. (13) The king eventually did this in the most destructive way possible: he raised a proxy army of Congolese mercenaries to fight against Tip’s forces all over the densely populated areas near the Great Rift Valley. (13) After a couple of years, and an impossible to estimate death toll, they had expelled Tip and his fellow Arab slavers. (13) The imperial double-cross left Leopold II in complete control. (13) He tried to persuade the Belgian government to support expansion around the then-largely unexplored Congo Basin. (3,7) Like most of the monarchs in western Europe he had been forced to largely yield political power elected representatives by the late 19th century, so Belgium’s parliament and cabinet were the real focus of power. (12) The imperial issue was the only one on which he put pressure on the senate to get Belgium involved in building an overseas empire like all the bigger countries had. (13) It became an obsession for Leopold II, (13) but neither the Belgian people (10) nor the Belgian government was interested. (10) It was felt that colonies would be an extravagance for a small country with no navy or merchant marine. (12)

The International African Association

Leopold hosted an international conference of explorers and geographers at the royal palace in Brussels in 1876. (12) In 1876, he formed (9,10) a private holding company; (10) it was known as the “Association Internationale Africaine” (International African (9,10) Association) [OR] Society. (10,13) or the International Association for the Exploration and Civilization of the Congo. (14) King Leopold became its only shareholder. (9) He announced that its intention was to promote scientific and philanthropic [OR] missionary work and the westernisation of African peoples. (9) It would be a kind of international philanthropic enterprise, (12,13) in which the “benevolent” king would shower natives with the blessings of (13) Christianity4, (12,13) Western civilization, and commerce (12) starched shirts, and steam engines. (13) This was not his real aim, which was to organize and finance exploration of the continent (13) and thereby bring international prestige and wealth to relatively small Belgium even if it involved harming the local people. (9,10) Several years later [OR] in 1876, under the auspices of the holding company, (10) he hired (10,12) the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley to (4,10) be his man in Africa (12) and help him lay claim to the Congo by establishing a colony there. (4,10) For five years Stanley travelled up and down the immense waterways of the Congo River basin, setting up trading posts, building roads, and persuading local chiefs—almost all of them illiterate—to sign treaties with Leopold. (12) In 1878, Henry Stanley presumed to meet Dr. Livingstone deep inside the Congo rain forest. (13) The international press made both men out to be heroes – bold explorers in the heart of darkest Africa. (13) What went unsaid in the breathless newspaper accounts of the two men’s famous expeditions is what they were doing in the Congo in the first place. (13) Stanley and Livingstone’s expeditions composed a major part of opening up the rain forest to the king’s agents. (13) This ruse that King Leopold II was working overtime to get Africans into heaven, worked far longer than it should have. (13)

Establishment of Congo Free State

Leopold used the prestige of the monarchy to lobby for pet projects, (7) but the government refused to finance the acquisition (7) [OR] lent him money for this venture, (14) outsourcing it to Leopold, (7) who began trying to acquire a colony in his private capacity as an ordinary citizen. (10) [OR] He took out private loans from the Belgian government to finance the “purchase” of land in Africa from indigenous rulers. (8,13) After he had paid that debt off, he took 100 percent of the profits. (13)

The Berlin Conference of 1884-5

Leopold’s personal willpower and much diplomatic manoeuvring resulted in (10) the Berlin Conference of 1884-85. (4,10) At this (3,7) he persuaded first (12) the United States and then (10,12) representatives of (14) all (12) 13 (10) [OR] 14 (14) of the major (12) colonial (13) nations of western Europe (3,7) to allow him to acquire (10,12) a huge swath of Central Africa (roughly the same territory as the modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo), (12) most of the area he and Stanley had laid claim to (10) as a personal possession. (10,12) He called it (12,13) ironically (13) État Indépendant du Congo (12) the ‘Congo Free State’ (3,4) and it achieved international recognition (3,4) on February 5th (10) 1885, (3,10) on the assumption that it would continue the mission of the International African Association (9) to bring civilisation to the so-called dark continent, (7) and improve the lives of the native inhabitants. (4,9)

Leopold’s political regime

It was a private project undertaken on his own behalf, (14) the world’s only private colony, (12) and Leopold referred to himself as its “proprietor”. (12,14) He ignored the philanthropic requirement. (4,14) He established a regime there himself, (3,4) as a private wealth creating venture. (1,4) At 3,000 (8) [OR] 905,000 (9) square miles (8,9) the area was 76 (7,9) [OR] 60 (15) times the size of Belgium, (7,9) or three times the size of Texas, (13) a landmass that would stretch from the Baltic to the Black Sea. (5) The territory was governed from Brussels, and the administrative capital was the port city of Boma. (6) Boma was the residence of the Governor General of the Congo, who was the king’s direct representative. (6) The Congo was divided into 14 districts administered5 by commissioners who reported to the Governor General, (6) and were appointed directly by the king. (6,13) They had dictatorial powers over their realms (13) [OR] sometimes acted as colonial administrators. (6) Each official was paid entirely by commission, and thus had an incentive extract the maximum profit. (13)

Abuses of the regime

Countries such as France, the Netherlands and Great Britain that acquired large empires exploited both land and people. (10) However, because Parliament controlled their imperial policies6, some measures to protect the rights of overseas subjects were introduced. (10) Talk at home about the rights of women and men to vote, for protection against industrial exploitation saw legislation on working hours, child labour and employment conditions introduced and some were aware that those for whom the government was responsible overseas also possessed rights. (10) Leopold II took imperialism to a new level, simply seeing the Congo as his to exploit; (10) he controlled the native population by a (6) brutal. (6,10) regime. (6) Congolese people were often raped, tortured, (8) and maimed. (6,8)

Land purchase

The treaties which Stanley made (12) bought land from African rulers for Leopold, (8,9) Unable to read or write, tribal chiefs, unwittingly (9) sold their tribe members’ claims and rights (8,9) to their land and its resources (8) for pieces of cloth: (8,9) (“one piece of cloth per month” (8,9) to each of the undersigned chiefs (9) in addition to (8,9) “a present of (9) cloth in hand”). (8,9)) Leopold became the sole owner and (4,5) he ruled it (1,2) as an absolute monarch, (2) although he never went there. (6)

Economic activities

The royal coffers would become a central focus of Leopold’s life, and he once grumbled to German Emperor William II while watching a parade in Berlin, “There is really nothing left for us kings except money!”(12) As it stood initially, the Congo was a huge financial burden. (7) It comprised largely of (8,7) unmapped (7) although as it later turned out, resource-rich interior (8) consisting of rainforest (9) jungle (8,7) and savannah, (8) Putting the land purchase treaties to use (after if necessary having them doctored to his liking), (12) The king then embarked on an ultimately successful effort to make a vast fortune from (6,12) the agricultural (13) and other natural resources of (6) his new possession, (6,12) such as ivory. (1,4) Governors (13) [OR] commissioners (6) made huge numbers of native Congolese work on the land. (13)


Ivory was greatly valued in the days before plastics because it could be carved into a great variety of shapes—statuettes, jewelry, piano keys, false teeth, and more. (12) For some years ivory was a principal source of the great wealth that Leopold and his associates drew from the new colony. (12) In his novella Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, who spent six months in the Congo in 1890 as a steamboat officer, describes unpleasant aspects of the European quest for Congo ivory. (12) They slaughtered ivory-bearing elephants in massive hunts that saw hundreds or thousands of local beaters driving game past a raised platform occupied by European hunters armed with half a dozen rifles each. (13) Hunters used this method, known as a battue, extensively in the Victorian Period: it could empty a whole ecosystem of its large animals. (13) Under the reign of Leopold II, the Congo’s unique wildlife was fair game for sport killing by almost any hunter who could book passage and pay for a hunting license. (13) Ivory was exported, but did not yield the expected levels of revenue. (14)

Infrastructure development

During the 1890s a more reliable transport network was built up, thus making it possible to export even more of the Congo’s natural resources. (6) Part of the land purchase agreements the chiefs had signed was that the people must “assist by labour or otherwise, any works, improvements or expeditions which the said Association shall cause at any time to be carried out in any part of these territories”. (9) [OR] the people were (8,10) blackmailed7 (8) [OR] forced (10,12) into working (8,10) on the construction and management of the infrastructure (6,12) from road building to chopping wood for steamboat boilers. (12) This also resulted in the deaths of many workers of all ages. (6) Their working days were long and hard, and required an enormous amount of physical effort. (6)


Profit was also derived from minerals, (2,13) such as gold and diamonds (13) An unknown number of local people were worked to death in the mines. (13) When the global demand for rubber exploded, attention shifted to


In the 1890s, (4,12) a worldwide rubber boom was under way, kicked off by the invention of the inflatable bicycle tire and spurred on by the rise of the automobile and the use of rubber in industrial belts and gaskets, as well as in coating for telephone and telegraph wires. (12) Worldwide (4,7) [OR] late 19th century European (9) demand for rubber boomed, (4,7) a big effort was made to increase rubber production. (1,2) Throughout the tropics, people rushed to sow rubber trees, but those plants could take many years to reach maturity, and in the meantime there was money to be made wherever rubber grew wild. (12) One important source of wild rubber was the Landolphia vines in the great Central African rainforest, and no-one owned more of that area than Leopold. (12) The land purchase agreements said that ‘all roads and waterways running through this country, the right of collecting tolls on the same, and all game, fishing, mining and forest rights, are to be the absolute property of the said Association’; this included the right to produce rubber. (9) The Belgian Commissioners acted as trading agents, and their main function was to secure the largest possible production of ivory and rubber in the shortest possible time. (6) Rubber plantations take a lot of work to maintain, and rubber trees can’t really grow on a commercial scale in an old-growth rain forest. (13) The only economical way (7) of achieving the maximum production of rubber (6) by the labour-intensive collection of sap from rubber plants (14) was by mobilising (7) the native population (1,4) to harvest and process it. (4) Clear cutting forest is a big job that delays the crop and cuts into profits. (13) To save time and money, the king’s agents routinely depopulated villages – where most of the clearance work had already been done – to make room for the King’s cash crop. (13) By the late 1890s, with economical rubber production shifting to India and Indonesia, the destroyed villages were simply abandoned. (13)

The Quota System

Just as Christopher Columbus had done in Hispaniola 400 years earlier, Leopold II imposed quotas on every man in his realm for production of raw materials. (13) Every district had quotas for producing ivory, and whatever else the land had to give up. (13) The Force Publique (see below) collected it (7,12) from European agents (8) [OR] Villages (7) who were assigned a (7,8) daily (7) [OR] monthly (12) rubber quota. (7,8) The Force Publique would enter a village and take the women hostage: to secure their release (12) the men had to go into the rainforest and gather the quota of wild rubber (7,12) by cutting down vines and layering their bodies with rubber latex. (7) To reclaim the rubber for use it had to be scraped off the skin – often taking flesh and hair with it, which was injurious to health. (7) If the order was not met, the agent lost pay and benefits. (8) As the price of rubber soared, the quotas increased, and as vines near a village were drained dry, men desperate to free their wives and daughters would have to walk days or weeks to find new vines to tap. (12) In order to maintain quotas, agents put severe measures in place to force people to work. (8) Violence took place on rubber plantations. (8,13) A man’s family or relatives might be kidnapped, beaten, and held hostage while he was sent to the rubber forests. (8) Men who failed to meet their ivory or gold quota even once would face mutilation, with hands and feet being the most popular sites for amputation, (13) [OR] were routinely flogged with the chicote, a whip made out of raw, sun-dried hippopotamus hide, cut into a long sharp-edged cork-screw strip. (9) It was applied to bare buttocks, and left permanent scars. (9) Twenty strokes of it sent victims into unconsciousness and a 100 or more strokes were often fatal. (9) The chicotte was freely used (9) by the Force Publique). (9,15) If the man could not be caught, or if he needed both hands to work, (13) his family might be tortured or raped, (8) or maimed (8,9) by having their hands cut off, (13) If a village failed to reach its quota hostages would be taken and shot (7,12) or be maimed by having their hands severed (9) In one case a policeman had been ordered to collect 60 slaves and a huge amount of rubber, but only eight slaves and 2,500 balls of rubber had been gathered. (7) Between 80 and 90 local workers were killed in reprisal. (7) The effects were devastating. (12) Many of the women hostages starved, and many of the male rubber gatherers were worked to death. (12) The raw materials were shipped from the port of Boma. (6)

The Force Publique

After dealing with Tippu Tip (see above) Leopold reorganized his mercenaries (13) into a unit of mercenary soldiers (4,6) [OR] policemen (8) [OR] occupiers (13) which numbered up to 19,000 troops. (6,12) It was called the ‘Force Publique’ (4,6) although it was private. (8,9) All the officers were European, while all the rank-and-file soldiers were local men (6,9) [OR] cannibals from tribes in the upper Congo (9) who had been (6,9) bought from tribal leaders [OR] re-assigned from their duties suppressing Tippu Tip (13) [OR] kidnapped (6,9) as children during raids on surrounding villages and raised by missionaries, (9) and then press-ganged into service for a minimum of seven years. (6) The Force terrorized the Congo (8)


The king’s system began to take its toll on a scale unheard of since the Mongol rampage across Asia. (13) There were mass killings (6) and enormous mortality from diseases (4,8) such as smallpox or sleeping sickness. (4) The number attributed to direct killing may be exaggerated, since there were only 175 administrative agents in charge of rubber exploitation, (4) and nobody knows how many people lived in the Congo Free State in 1885, (12,13) The few surviving inhabitants of abandoned villages were left to fend for themselves or make their way to another village deeper in the forest. (13) With women as hostages and men forced to tap rubber, few able-bodied adults were left to hunt, fish, and cultivate crops. (12) Millions of Congolese then found themselves suffering near-famine, which made them vulnerable to diseases they otherwise might have survived. (12) Furthermore, as in any society where men and women are separated, traumatized, the birth rate dropped precipitously. (12) Millions (1,2) perhaps as many as 15 million (2) [OR] between 5 and 10 million [OR] 2 and 15 million (7,10) [OR] 10 million to 15 (5) [OR] between 1 and 15 million, (4,14) since accurate records were not kept, (14) with a consensus growing around 10 million, (4) [OR] 10 million people, about half of the country’s population at the time (8,12) including children (14) died. (1,2) [OR] 10 million were killed (9) and mutilated. (9,14) No single cause took them all. (13) Instead, the high death toll was mostly the result of starvation, disease, overwork, infections caused by mutilation, and outright executions of the slow, the rebellious, and the families of fugitives. (13) It has been suggested that some of the decline in numbers may be attributable to flight as refugees, (7) but Central Africa is remote, and the terrain is difficult to travel across, and no other European colonies reported a major refugee influx. (13) The perhaps 10 million people who disappeared in the colony during this time were most likely dead. (13)Demographers estimate that between 1880 and 1920 the population of the Congo may have fallen by up to 50 percent (12) to an estimated 10 million at the end. (12,13) These figures put Leopold in the top ten of history’s mass murderers. (7) Many historians consider the atrocities to have constituted a genocide, (10) although there is debate about that. (5) See Appendix V


The local governors extracted the wealth of the region with industrial efficiency, (13) and Leopold made substantial financial gains (4,7) from the trade in ivory and rubber. (14) At one stage he was reputed to be the world’s largest landowner (13) and the richest man in the world with a personal fortune somewhere between $100 million and $500 million dollars (US). (9) The forced-labour system for gathering rubber was swiftly copied by French, German, and Portuguese colonial officials with equally fatal results, (12) and the French copied the chicotte. (9)

The Lado Enclave

In 1894, King Leopold signed a treaty with Great Britain which conceded a strip of land on the Congo Free State’s eastern border in exchange for the Lado Enclave, which provided access to the navigable Nile and extended the Free State’s sphere of influence northwards into Sudan. (14) After rubber profits soared in 1895, Leopold ordered the organization of an expedition into the Lado Enclave, which had been overrun by Mahdist rebels since the outbreak of the Mahdist War in 1881. (14) The expedition was composed of two columns: the first, under Belgian war hero Baron Dhanis, consisted of a sizable force, numbering around 3,000, and was to strike north through the jungle and attack the rebels at their base at Rejaf. (14) The second, a much smaller force of 800, was led by Louis-Napoléon Chaltin and took the main road towards Rejaf. (14) Both expeditions set out in December 1896. (14) Although Leopold had initially planned for the expedition to carry on much farther than the Lado Enclave, hoping indeed to take Fashoda and then Khartoum, Dhanis’ column mutinied in February 1897, resulting in the death of several Belgian officers and the loss of his entire force. (14) Nonetheless, Chaltin continued his advance, and on 17th February 1897, his outnumbered forces defeated the rebels in the Battle of Rejaf, securing the Lado Enclave as a Belgian territory until Leopold’s death in 1909. (14)

Protests against Leopold

Inside the Congo

Tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of Congolese fled their villages to avoid being impressed as forced labourers, and they sought refuge deep in the forest, where there was little food and shelter. (12) The Force Publique had to deal with (6) several rebellions, which were put down (6,12) with horrifying savagery, (6) largely in secrecy, (8) with tens of thousands of deaths. (12) One particularly notorious practice grew out of the suppression of those rebellions. (12) The munitions used by the Force Publique had been imported at considerable expense. (14) There was a temptation for the government’s soldiers/policemen to use their weapons to shoot animals for food, (7,8) To prove that they had actually shot people rather than (7) wasted bullets in hunting or, worse yet, saved them for use in a mutiny (12) [OR] to avoid having to waste bullets executing people, (8) for each bullet expended (12) the police (7,8) [OR] Congolese soldiers of the Force Publique (12) were required to produce the severed hands of victims (7,8) sometimes even of children (8) to their white officer. (12) If a soldier fired at someone and missed, he then sometimes cut off the hand of a living victim to be able to show it to his officer. (12) Baskets of severed hands thus resulted from expeditions against rebels. (12) Villagers sold severed hands to policemen so that they could fulfil their quotas. (7) The police preserved them (7,8) as trophies of their “thriftiness” and “protection of resources.”(8) The hands were also used to intimidate and threaten the Congolese people. (8) In one case 81 hands were reported hanging over a fire. (7)A junior officer described a raid to punish a village that had protested, in the following words. (9) “The commanding officer ordered us to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades, also their sexual members, and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross.” (9) The Free State was ‘an enormous concentration camp’. (6)


For over a decade, the mutilations and killings were largely covered up. (8) Few missionaries were allowed in Congo and on only the strictest of conditions. (8) Eventually, tales of the nightmare unfolding in the Free State reached the outside world. (8,13) In 1890, (8) a clerk at a British shipping line (8,10) [OR] journalist (6) Edmund Dene (5,8) Morel (6,8) noticed that, while rubber and ivory came out of Congo, but nothing went in except soldiers and guns. (8) He began a campaign in Britain to expose Leopold’s atrocities. (8) In 1899 (8) the grisly, bloody imagery of (7) Joseph Conrad (6,7)’s novel Heart of Darkness (7,8) furthered social interest in Africa. (8) By 1900 the violence used by Leopold’s officials (3,4) especially against the rubber workers (3,10) was being described in first-person testimonies. (6) Reports emerged of exploitation and widespread abuses, including enslavement and mutilation of the native population. (10) International public opinion expressed opposition to the continuation of Leopold’s rule in the Congo. (6) Important sources of information included the stories and data provided by the American missionary G. W. Williams and by Mark Twain – “King Leopold’s Soliloquy” – and others (6) such as the Presbyterian8 (7) missionary (6,7) William Henry Sheppard [OR] Williams Sephard. (6) Sheppard recalled in his diary passing by more than a dozen burned villages, (7) and missionary John Harris of Baringa, for example, was so shocked by what he had come across that he felt moved to write a letter to Leopold’s chief agent in the Congo: “I have just returned from a journey inland to the village of Insongo Mboyo. (10) The abject misery and utter abandon is positively indescribable. (10) I was so moved, Your Excellency, by the people’s stories that I took the liberty of promising them that in future you will only kill them for crimes they commit.” (10) These critical voices were published in the international press, (6) leading to widespread public outcry. (6,10) The campaign to report on Leopold’s “secret society of murderers,” led by (10) British (6) consul (14) diplomat (6,10) [OR] Irish human rights activist Sir (8) Roger (8,10) Casement (6,8) [OR] by E.D.Morel (6,8) became the first mass human rights movement. (10) Because the system’s effects in the Congo could so easily be blamed on one man, who could safely be attacked because he did not represent a great power, an international outcry focused on Leopold. (12)

Assassination Attempt, 1902

On9 November 15th 1902, Italian anarchist Gennaro Rubino unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate him. (10) He was riding in a royal cortege from a ceremony (10) at Saint-Gudule Cathedrale (14) in memory of his recently-deceased wife, Marie Henriette. (10) After Leopold’s carriage passed, Rubino fired three shots at the King. (10) Rubino’s shots missed Leopold entirely (10) but almost killed the king’s Grand Marshall, Count Charles John d’Oultremont. (14) Rubino was immediately arrested at the scene. (10) and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. (14) He died in prison in 1918. (14) The king replied after the attack to a senator: “My dear senator, if fate wants me shot, too bad!” (Mon cher Senateur, si la fatalite veut que je sois atteint, tant pis!) After the failed regicide the security of the king was questioned, because the glass of the landaus was 2 cm thick. (14) Elsewhere in Europe, the news of this assassination attempt was received with alarm. (14) Heads of state and the pope sent telegrams to the king congratulating him for surviving the assassination attempt. (14) Many people remembered the earlier assassinations of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Umberto I of Italy by other Italian anarchists. (14) The Belgians rejoiced that the king was safe. (14) Later in the day, in the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie before Tristan und Isolde was performed, the orchestra played the Brabançonne, which was sung loudly and ended with loud cheers, acclamations, and applause. (14)

After 1902

In 1903, he denied accusations of brutality in the Congo Free State (CFS) and warned foreign powers not to interfere in the running of his private country. (1) He wrote to his secretary: “These horrors must end or I will retire from the Congo”. (15) When accused of the cutting off of hands, he said “Cut off hands – that’s idiotic. I’d cut off all the rest of them, but not hands. That’s the one thing I need in the Congo”. (15) People in the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands, railed against the Belgian practices: all of these countries coincidentally owned large rubber-producing colonies of their own and were thus in competition with Leopold II for profits. (13) In 1905, after several months of investigation, a commission10 published a report that corroborated the abuses that had been denounced. (6) Eventually, British officials ordered Casement to provide a report. (8) Casement’s scathing 1906 report was so severe that London’s Foreign Office would not publish the original. (8)

In Belgium

Although the Belgians rejoiced that the king was safe after the assassination attempt in 1902, (14) he became unpopular afterwards. (12) His unpopularity had much less to do with his actions in Africa than with his conduct of his personal life. (12) He had many mistresses (14) and had a well-known penchant for teenaged girls. (12,15) He did not bother to deny charges in a London court that he had sex with child prostitutes. (15) When the bishop of Ostend told him that people were saying he had a mistress, he is reputed to have replied: ‘People tell me the same about you, your Grace, but of course I choose not to believe them’. (15) In 1900, when he was age 65, he began (12,14) an adulterous11 (14) liaison (10,12) with a teenaged (12,14) 16-year-old (14) former (12) French (14) prostitute, (12,14) Blanche Zélia Joséphine (10) [OR] Caroline (10,14) Lacroix. (10,14) [OR] Delacroix. (10) She and Leopold remained together for the next decade until his death, (14) and she had two additional (10,12) sons, (10,14) born out of wedlock. (10) Lucien Philippe Marie Antoine was born in 1906, and Philippe Henri Marie François was born in 1907. (10) They were (10,14) probably Leopold’s, and would have had a strong claim to the throne had the marriage been valid; (14) they were alleged to have been ennobled as the Duke of Tervuren, the Count of Ravenstein respectively, but no such royal decrees were ever issued. (10) Leopold lavished upon her large sums of money, estates, gifts, and (14) allegedly (10) a noble title, Baroness (10,14) de (10) Vaughan. (10,14) Owing to these gifts and the unofficial nature of their relationship, Caroline was deeply unpopular among the Belgian people and internationally. (14) She and Leopold married secretly in a religious ceremony (10,14) at the Pavilion of Palms, in the Château de Laeken, (10) five days before his death. (10,14) Their failure to perform a civil ceremony rendered the marriage invalid under Belgian law. (10, 14) After the king’s death, it was soon discovered that he had left Caroline a large fortune, which the Belgian government and Leopold’s three estranged daughters tried to seize as rightfully theirs. (14) Lucien and Philippe were adopted in 1910 by her second husband, Antoine Durrieux. (10)

Establishment of the Belgian Congo

The pressure of protest finally forced Leopold to relinquish his ownership of the territory. (3,12) In 1906, (8) the Belgian government began negotiations with Leopold to buy the land from him. (8) It took two years to finalize the sale, after which (8,12) he finally renounced (4,6) [OR] the Belgian parliament compelled him to renounce (10) his rule over the Free State of the Congo. (4,6) The deal cost Belgium the considerable sum of 215.5 million Francs. (14) This was used to discharge the debt of the Congo Free State and to pay out its bond holders as well as 45.5 million for Leopold’s pet building projects in Belgium and a personal payment of 50 million to him. (14) The area subsequently became a colony of Belgium, (3,6) and was renamed the Belgian Congo, (3,6) in 1908 (3,4) [OR] 1909. (9) The Congo Free State was transformed into a Belgian colony known as the Belgian Congo under parliamentary control. (14) Leopold went to great lengths to conceal potential evidence of wrongdoing during his time as ruler of his private colony. (14) The entire archive of the Congo Free State was burned and he told his aide that even though the Congo had been taken from him, “they have no right to know what I did there”. (14) By 1910 virtually all of Africa had been transformed into European colonies, protectorates, or territories ruled by white settlers. (12)


Leopold died (4,7) peacefully, on the 44th anniversary of his coronation (13) on 17th December (4,10) 1909, (4,7) at Laeken. (12,14) He was interred in the royal vault at the Church of Our Lady, Laeken Cemetery, Brussels, Belgium. (10) He died without surviving male heirs, (4,12) and his nephew Albert I succeeded to the throne. (4,12) The current Belgian king descends from Albert I. (4) Leopold was unpopular among the Belgians at end of his reign, (10,12) and his funeral cortege was booed, (7,10) mostly because of his relationship with Caroline Lacroix. (12,14) Other things which upset them were that he spoke contemptuously of Belgium’s small size, could not speak proper Dutch, the native language of more than half of its citizens, spent long winters in luxurious quarters on the French Riviera, and was estranged from two of his three daughters. (12)


Leopold’s reign had been the longest of any Belgian monarch. (4) He had been one of history’s most brutal rulers. (5) Although Leopold played a significant role in the development of the modern Belgian state, he was also responsible for widespread atrocities committed under his rule against his colonial subjects. (12) He never faced any formal prosecution for his actions. (8) In 1909 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, “The crime of the Congo” highlighting the plight of the Congolese. (9) When the Belgium12 government assumed responsibility in 1909 (10) it immediately introduced some cosmetic reforms in (13) the new ‘Belgian Congo’: (3,6) it became illegal to randomly kill Congolese civilians, for example, and administrators went from a quota-and-commission system to one in which they received pay only when their terms ended, and then only if their work was judged “satisfactory.” (13) And that’s about it. (13) Whippings and mutilations continued for years in the Congo, with every penny in profit siphoned out. (13) [OR] the condition of the people changed dramatically and economic prosperity followed. (10) [OR] Belgian13 rule in the Congo was based on the “colonial trinity” (trinité coloniale) of state, missionary and private-company interests. (3) The privileging of Belgian commercial interests meant that large amounts of capital flowed into the Congo and that individual regions became specialised. (3) On many occasions, the interests of the government and of private enterprise became closely linked, and the state helped companies to break strikes and to remove other barriers raised by the indigenous population. (3) The country was divided into hierarchically organised administrative subdivisions, and run uniformly according to a set “native policy” (politique indigène). (3) This contrasted the practice of British and French policy, which generally favoured systems of indirect rule, retaining traditional leaders in positions of authority under the oversight of the colonial power. (3) The country gained independence (5,8) in 1971 (13) [OR] in (5,8) June (5) 1960. (5,8) after 52 (5,6) [OR] 63 (13) years of rule Belgium granted independence to the area (5,8) which would be called the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (4,10) [OR] Republic of Congo. (8) “It is your job, gentlemen, to show that we were right in trusting you,” proclaimed King Baudouin. (5) The Democratic Republic of the Congo was later renamed Zaire, (10) but is now the Democratic Republic of Congo again. (8,10) The Belgians were (11,14) bloodily (11) booted out in 1960. (11,14) After gaining its independence in the mid-20th century, it was renamed three times: first, as the Republic of the Congo; second as Zaire, the name it retained under Mobutu Sese Seko’s dictatorship; and third as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or DRC. (14) (This is not to be confused with the neighboring Republic of the Congo, which was formerly a colony of France. (14) ) The corrupt commissions and bonus system Belgium put in place for colonial administrators stayed after the Europeans left, and Congo hasn’t had an honest government yet. (13Just as many adults have a hard time overcoming a bad childhood, the Democratic Republic of Congo is still coping with trauma directly inflicted by the rule of King Leopold II. (13) The Great African War swept over the Congo during the 1990s, killing perhaps 6 million people in the biggest bloodletting since World War II. (13) This struggle saw the Kinshasa government overthrown in 1997 with an equally bloodthirsty dictatorship put in its place. (13) Foreign countries still own virtually all of Congo’s natural resources, and they guard their extraction rights with UN peacekeepers and hired paramilitaries. (13) Leopold II is still a controversial figure in the Democratic Republic of Congo; in 2005 his statue was taken down just hours after it was re-erected in the capital, Kinshasa. (10) The Congolese culture minister, Christoph Muzungu, decided to reinstate the statue, arguing people should see the positive aspects of the king as well as the negative. (10) But just hours after the six-meter (20-foot) statue was erected in the middle of a roundabout near Kinshasa’s central station, it was taken down again, without explanation. (10) The Democratic Republic of Congo remains the poorest country in the world (8) Virtually everybody in the country lives in desperate poverty, despite living in what is (per square mile) the most resource-rich country on Earth. (13) The life of a modern citizen of the DRC sounds like what you’d expect for a society that’s just survived a nuclear war. (13) Relative to Americans, Congolese people are 12 times more likely to die in infancy; (13) have a life expectancy 23 years shorter; (13) make 99.24% less money; (13) spend 99.83% less on health care; (13) and are 83.33% more likely to be HIV-positive. (13)

Benefits to Belgium

Modern day Belgium owes much to the people of the Congo River Basin: (9) Leopold made large bequests to the nation and commissioned graceful buildings with his own money. (13) because Leopold used great sums of the money derived from the Congo for public and private construction projects in Belgium, (4,5) and he is perceived today by many Belgians as the “King-Builder” (“le Roi-Bâtisseur” in French, “Koning-Bouwer” (10,14) [OR] Bouwheer” (14) in Dutch) (10,14) because he commissioned a great number of buildings and urban projects in Belgium (mainly in Brussels, Ostend and Antwerp). (10,14) These buildings include the Hippodrome Wellington racetrack, the Royal Galleries and Maria Hendrikapark in Ostend; (14) he expanded the grounds of the Royal Castle of Laeken (14) and the Royal Glasshouses there; the Japanese Tower, the Chinese Pavilion (10,14) near the palace; (14) the Musée du Congo (now called (10) the Royal Museum for Central Africa) (10,14) and its surrounding park in Tervuren; (10,13) the Cinquantenaire (10,12) park, with its triumphal arch (12,13) OR] Arcade (12) and complex (13) in Brussels, (10) and the Duden Park in Brussels, and the 1895-1905 (14) hall of the (10) Antwerp (10,14) Central (14) railway station. (10,14) In addition to his public works, he acquired and built numerous private properties for himself inside and outside Belgium. (14) In the Ardennes, his domains consisted of 6,700 hectares (17,000 acres) of forests and agricultural lands and the châteaux of Ardenne, Ciergnon, Fenffe, Villers-sur-Lesse and Ferage. (14) He also built important country estates (14) [OR] an important estate (10) in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (10) on the French Riviera, (10,14) including the Villa des Cèdres and its botanical garden, (10,14) and the Villa Leopolda. (14) Leopold did not want the collection of estates, lands and heritage buildings he had privately amassed to be scattered amongst his estranged daughters, each of whom was married to a foreign prince. (14) He donated the private buildings to the state before his death, to preserve them for Belgium. (4,14) In 1900, he created the Royal Trust, by means of which he donated most of his property to the Belgian nation. (14) This preserved most of his property (9,14) to beautify Belgium in perpetuity, while still allowing future generations of the Belgian Royal family the privilege of their use (14) after his death. (9)

Belgium and the History of the Congo

Few of the colonial horrors are anywhere in sight in Belgium. (5,10) There has been a “Great Forgetting,” as Adam Hochschild puts it in King Leopold’s Ghost, after Leopold’s Congo was transferred to Belgium. (10) In Hochschild’s words: “Remarkably, the colonial Royal Museum for Central Africa (Tervuren Museum) did not mention anything at all regarding the atrocities committed in the Congo Free State.” (10) The Tervuren Museum has a large collection of colonial objects but of the largest injustice in Congo, “there is no sign whatsoever” (in Hochschild’s words again). (10) Another example is to be found on the sea walk of Blankenberge, a popular coastal resort, where a monument shows a colonialist with a black child at his feet (supposedly bringing “civilisation”) without any comment, further illustrating this “Great Forgetting”. (10) In Ostend, the beach promenade has a 1931 sculptural monument to Leopold II, showing Leopold and grateful Ostend fishermen and Congolese. (14) The inscription accompanying the Congolese group notes: “De dank der Congolezen aan Leopold II om hen te hebben bevrijd van de slavernij onder de Arabieren” (“The gratitude of the Congolese to Leopold II for having liberated them from slavery under the Arabs”). (14) Collective apathy and a stagnant education system have prevented the country from confronting its role in Congo, more than a century in the past. (5) [OR] Recently a museum opened illustrating the administration of the Congo under King Leopold. (2) It displays more than 180,000 items, including the beheaded skulls of vanquished tribal chiefs, and more than 500 stuffed animals killed by hunters. (2)

Appendix I – Estimates

  • New World Order language: Independent has: colonial role; struggling with identity; statues; confronting white identity. History Today has: imperialism was piracy; racist assumptions; horrors of imperialism; trauma of colonialism; exploitation; Go Highbrow Che Guevara said that the Congo was waging a relentless struggle against imperialism. Digital Journal: “hideous brutality of the European colonial era and imperialism in its finest form; Atrocities; in the same period acts of brutality were being committed on native peoples elsewhere in the world. Britain on the Aborigines in Australasia, the United States on native Americans and Pilipino , French on Northwest Congolese, Spanish on the north and central native Americans, Portuguese on the Angolans and Amazonians and Germans on Southwest Africans. Britannica ‘echoes a century later’; Guardian: trying to come to terms with a brutal colonial past; howls of rage from Belgium’s ageing colonials; openly racist extreme rightwing Vlaams Blok, which blames much of the country’s ills on coloured immigrants from Africa, is bidding to become one of the biggest parties in next month’s elections; ‘the planes which soar over the greenhouses as they depart Brussels sometimes carry human cargo – black asylum seekers being unceremoniously deported, occasionally naked and still bleeding, back to Africa. Last September, the Belgian immigration service succeeded in suffocating one of them, a Nigerian woman called Semira Adamu, 20, on board the plane that was to take her home, by shoving her head under a pillow;’ ‘exposed by campaigners’; All That’s Interesting blood-soaked tyranny; crimes against humanity; set a new standard for cruelty that horrified even the other imperial power. GoHighbrow describes Sir Roger Casement, the British spy for the Germans in the First World War as ‘an Irish human rights activist’; Wikipedia: ‘Reports of outrageous exploitation and widespread human rights abuses led the British Crown to appoint their consul Roger Casement’; Wikipedia Atrocities ‘brutal colonial past’. ‘openly racist extreme rightwing Vlaams Blok, which blames much of the country’s ills on coloured immigrants from Africa.’ ‘American and British writers have highlighted the Congo to distract attention from the contemporary massacre of the North American indians and the Boer War’;

  • Leopold himself: History Today like Hitler and Stalin; ‘wretched Belgian’; continent ravaged; New World Encyclopaedia Attila in modern dress; thoroughly bad man; Guardian: notorious stewardship; spade-bearded old reprobate a mass-murderer, the first genocidalist of modern times, responsible for the death of more Africans than the Nazis killed Jews; voracious king; an unattractive (sc physically) figure’; ‘few now defend him’; All That’s Interesting exceeded the crimes of even the worst 20th century dictators. Wikipedia Atrocities: notorious stewardship

  • ‘Children’: Digital Journal; GoHighbrow; Wikipedia
  • SPAG; New World Encyclopaedia ‘Belgium’ for Belgian; GoHighbrow ‘ascension’ for accession; Guardian ‘had their own knives to grind’; Barcelona: ‘administrated’ for administered; New World Encyclopaedia: ‘polices’ for ‘policies’

  • Anti-capitalism: Guardian ’voracious … anxious to maximise his earnings’. All That’s Interesting: for one man’s personal enrichment; Wikipedia: ‘decency required those who ruled primitive peoples to be concerned first with their uplift, not how much could be extracted from them’

FRESCI on Leopold

For those not familiar with it, FRESCI started life as a guide to writing essays for students at or preparing for university. The idea is to consider an essay title in relation to a series of ideas in order to cover all the angles while avoiding a narrative approach. Such an essay title might be: ‘Few now defend Leopold. Can You?’ to try it out on. Here are some main facts to consider in each category (NOT the answer to that question)

Foreign/Military – The recent foundation and small size of Belgium; the Scramble for Africa; Stanley’s explorations; The Berlin Conference of 1884; Tippu Tip; The Force Publique; The Lado Enclave. Belgian Eastern forts

Religion/Ideas – Christianity supplied the language of philanthropy with which he convinced the Berlin Conference, and the language in which he was internationally condemned. Imperialism; Western civilization. Racism. Missionary work. Socialism, Marxism and New World Order thinking.

Economic/financial – Poverty of Belgium; Industrial revolution; infrastructure; ivory; diamonds, gold, rubber. Demand for rubber; issues in extraction of rubber; Quota system. Sale by Leopold; Benefits to Belgium.

Social/Cultural – Education; transport; illiteracy and other aspects of primitive African cultures; police force; benefits to Belgium;

Constitutional/Legal – Unequal contracts; Private ownership; the authority of the Berlin Conference; The sale by Leopold. Was Leopold responsible for the end of the slave trade in the Congo? Was the Congo a concentration camp?

Individual/random – Energy of the young Leopold; libido of the old Leopold; Conrad; assassin missed.

Points of view – Huge controversies about imperialism and this particular manifestation of it, playing into New World Order critique and policy. Different versions of casualty rates and the reasons for them. ‘Great forgetting’; current poverty of Congo.

Language – Use of language as camouflage – ‘philanthropy’. Hysterical denunciations by left wing critics.

Alternative hypothesis – not applicable

Concepts – Cause: the rise of Europe, industrialisation and imperialism; Comparison with other imperial regimes, particularly Britain, France, and Holland, and with the Belgian domestic regime; Consequence contribution to New World Order politics; perhaps significant role of Belgian forts in delaying Schlieffen Plan?

Time – How much to be allowed for what was normal for the time? Everyone was racist in those days. But the French revolution had taken place, providing the language of rights and the progressive mode of thinking as in Dickens and Hugo. Was that language actually used by the critics? Creation of United Germany changed things for Belgium next door.


  1. https://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/king-leopold-ii-belgium-denies-accusations-brutality-congo-free-state
  2. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/12/08/belgian-museum-africa-reopens-10-year-effort-exorcise-ghosts/
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgian_Congo#Government
  4. Wikipedia Summary
  5. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/belgiums-genocidal-colonial-legacy-haunts-the-country-s-future-a7984191.html
  6. http://ajuntament.barcelona.cat/gabinetpostal/lestat-lliure-del-congo-un-genocidi-a-lombra/?lang=en
  7. https://www.historytoday.com/tim-stanley/belgiums-heart-darkness
  8. https://gohighbrow.com/leopold-ii-of-belgium/
  9. http://www.digitaljournal.com/blog/11297
  10. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Leopold_II_of_Belgium
  11. https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/1999/may/13/features11.g22
  12. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Leopold-II-king-of-Belgium
  13. https://allthatsinteresting.com/king-leopold-ii-congo
  14. Big Wikipedia
  15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrocities_in_the_Congo_Free_State

The New World Encyclopaedia is largely a copy of Wikipedia; the Wikipedia article on atrocities and the Guardian have passages which are identical;

1 Almost certainly not!

2 Another illiterate pair of errors – intended to say ‘at Leopold’s accession’

3 Wikipedia dates Tippu’s dealings with the Belgians as between 1884 and 1887

4 Leopold II was a fairly observant Catholic, may have really wanted to introduce his new people to Jesus. (13)

5 ‘administrated’

6 ‘polices’

7 Clearly not the right word: a mistake typical of uneducated people.

8 Protestant missionaries were rivals to Belgian Catholics in the region.

9 Taken word for word from 14, so no corroboration allowed.

10 (6) doesn’t actually say that this is the Casement Report.

11 Because his estranged wife did not die until 1902.

12 sic

13 It looks as if this means ‘Belgian government rule’, as opposed to the personal administration of Leopold.


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