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King Leopold II

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King Leopold II    

     
King Leopold II of Belgium commissioned the explorer Henry Stanley to secure agreements from the tribes who inhabited the Kongo Basin in Africa. Stanley did so through a combination of promises, threats and trickery. One of his methods when meeting a new chief, was to attach a buzzer to his hand which was linked to a battery. When the chief shook hands with Stanley he got a mild electric shock. This device convinced the chiefs that Stanley had superhuman powers. The agreements allowed the Belgians into the Congo to take its rich natural resources. 

At the Berlin Conference of 1884, the European powers met to carve up Africa. Leopold called Africa "that magnificent African cake." From this beginning, the Kongo Basin became the Congo Free State, 900,000 square miles, in essence the private estate of Leopold.

King Leopold's Ghost
by Adam Hochschild
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the story of how Belgian King Leopold II made the Congo his own private reserve and inflicted appalling conditions on the Africans - an excellent, compelling book

This is part of That Magnificent African Cake:
The Congo Free State
exhibit  

Mark Twain and Imperialism