Book Five: King Leopold's Ghost

King Leopold's Ghost, Adam Hochschild

This is one of those good for you books. The literary equivalent of broccoli. Oh wait, I love broccoli! Perhaps it's more like steamed liver covered in raisins and radicchio? Because that sounds like torture to me. Though honestly this book wasn't torture, just more of a moderately pleasant slog, at the end of which I thought, "Boy, I'm a better person for having read this book." And now I can't believe I'm bringing this truly great yet nearly soul crushing story down to the level of foods I kind of dislike. Boy, am I a jerk!

Really, though, if you know nothing of the atrocities that occurred under King Leopold's rule over his colony the Belgian Congo, then this will open your eyes. It's almost numbing after a while; after you hear about the thousandth hand cut off and the thousandth baby thrown in a ditch and the millionth native worked to death or shot outright or whipped or... gah! Anything! But the book is structured around a hero, of sorts, Edmund Morel, who became clued in to what was really going on in the Congo by observing goods coming into Belgium and those going out, and realized that there was no way there could be such a disparity without slavery taking place. He worked for many, many years to bring this to the attention of Europe and the rest of the world along with some really amazing people. Yes, they probably all weren't perfect, and yes, they all had some shortcomings, but it helps to know about those small figures in history who took a stand against something so monumental.


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