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Dan

Worcester, MA, United States | Member Since 2007

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  • King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa

    • UNABRIDGED (12 hrs and 34 mins)
    • By Adam Hochschild
    • Narrated By Geoffrey Howard
    Overall
    (247)
    Performance
    (172)
    Story
    (174)

    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. Incoming ships were crammed with valuable ivory and rubber. Outbound ships carried little more than soldiers and firearms. Correctly concluding that only slave labor could account for these cargoes, Morel almost singlehandedly made this slave-labor regime the premier human rights story in the world.

    Edith says: "Fascinating"
    "A classic"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    This is one of those classic, well-written tales that all educated people should at least know of. And it's an engrossing listen too. If you're looking for a good history book, this is a fine choice.

    I'm still giving it five stars, but I'll make the following criticisms: First, Hochschild has a certain supercilious moralism. You don't have to be supercilious to find fault with the Rape of the Congo, but Hochschild is, and it comes through. He goes to great effort to try to share the voices of the victims, which is in fact a great strength of the book, but in doing so he can't resist a discussion about how history empowers and disempowers and blah blah blah, gets kind of irritating. Yes, killing millions of poor Africans is wrong; we don't need to get super PC to make this point.

    Second, I think the most interesting point in the book is an idea Hochschild touches on at the end, that Africa's modern dysfunction is in many ways a direct consequence of the horrors inflicted during this period, and that this is not so much a reflection of large-scale problems of bad governance, but of the small-scale utter breakdown of civil society during the colonial period and the normalization of violence. This is somewhat outside the scope of the book, but I would really have liked to hear the case made directly.

    That being said, still a good listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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