Frank McLynn

Hearts of Darkness

Rogue Empires: Contracts and Conmen in Europe's Scramble for Africa

By

Harvard University Press 371pp £31.95 order from our bookshop

The Congo Free State, which existed from 1885 to 1908 as the personal dominion of Leopold II of Belgium, is infamous for its ‘red rubber’ atrocities, which excited the condemnation of figures as various as Joseph Conrad, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain and Roger Casement. Estimates of the number of deaths caused by Leopold’s ruthless exploitation of the country range from five to twenty million people. The statistics are disputed, as they are bound to be in a land where no proper censuses or other administrative records were kept. But the bottom line is that the detestable Leopold owned the Free State as surely as J D Rockefeller owned Standard Oil. How did such a situation come about? 

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Start your week with a dose of Russian Revolutionary zeal. Donald Rayfield reviews Tobie Mathew's 'Greetings From t… ,
    • A treat from the LR Archive: exactly 20 years ago, Malcolm Bradbury reviewed John Updike's 'Bech at Bay' ,
    • ‘When bullets come close, the noise they make as they go past changes from a zing to a crack’ John Lanchester's dy… ,
    • Man with a Bloody Paintbrush: Robin Simon on Lucian Freud ,
    • Jane Ridley reviews The Diaries of Kenneth Rose (ed. D R Thorpe) ,
    • ‘Look,’ says Trump. ‘The fact is I’m only human.’ On the evidence of this book that point is debatable. From the A… ,
    • From our December/January issue - here's John Banville's review of Colm Tóibín on the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and J… ,