King Leopold’s Ghost
When US historian Adam Hochschild published his award winning account of the brutal plunder of the Congo it raised a furore in Belgium. The Congo – now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo – was Belgium’s only African colony, and from 1885 to 1908 it was ‘owned’ by King Leopold II, who ran it like a private business, looting its minerals, rubber and ivory. His police carried out cruel punishments on villages that failed to pay taxes or reach their rubber targets – rubber was the chief commodity extracted from Congo’s jungles at a time when the world was desperate for it.
Adam Hochschild was born in New York in 1942. As a college student he spent a summer working on an anti-government newspaper in South Africa and as a civil rights worker in Mississippi in 1964. He later worked as a journalist and editor and is the author of six books, mostly about human rights. He has won numerous awards for his writing and now teaches journalism at the Graduate School of Journalism in the University of California.