King Leopold’s Ghost (EBook, 2020, HMH Books) 4 stars

In the 1880s, as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of …

Still a must-read, 20 years later

4 stars

When King Leopold’s Ghost was published two decades ago, its only briefly blipped on my radar, leaving me with the vague impression that of the hells European colonisation created in Africa, Léopold’s (and subsequently Belgium’s) Congo was located in the deepest circles. Historical colonialism, however, beyond being bad on principle, was not an issue the liberal German Left was worried about at the end of the 20th century – in part because sympathy for the post colonial struggle was de rigueur, in part out of the entirely unfounded feeling that we Germans got out of that particular pickle just in time.

Fast forward 20 years, and Germany is beginning to acknowledge its colonial past, leaving no way to dismiss the story of the colonial Congo as some other nation’s problem. Colonialism, it turns out, was hellish everywhere, with the German colonies no exception (the chicotte, the rhino hide …