Leopold II of Belgium  

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“We must be careful, skillful and ready to act…[to] get us a slice of this magnificent African cake” --Leopold II of Belgium cited in Divide and Rule: The Partition of Africa, 1880-1914 (1991) by Hans Wesselling, page 71


Abandoning the promises of the Berlin Conference in the late 1890s, Leopold II of Belgium restricted foreign access and extorted forced labor from the natives. Abuses, especially in the rubber industry, included the effective enslavement of the native population, beatings, widespread killing, and frequent mutilation.


"The kodak has been a sore calamity to us. The most powerful enemy indeed. In the early years we had no trouble getting the press to “expose” the tales of mutilations as slanders, lies, inventions . . . and by the press’s help we got the Christian nations everywhere to turn an irritated and unbelieving ear to these tales. . . . Then all of a sudden came the crash! That is to say, the incorruptible kodak ... The only witness I have encountered in my long experience that I could not bribe." --King Leopold's Soliloquy, Mark Twain

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Leopold II (9 April 1835 – 17 December 1909) was the second king of the Belgians. Born in Brussels the second (but eldest surviving) son of Leopold I and Louise-Marie of Orléans, he succeeded his father to the throne on 17 December 1865 and remained king until his death.

Leopold is chiefly remembered as the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free State, a private project undertaken on his own behalf. He used Henry Morton Stanley to help him lay claim to the Congo, an area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Powers at the Berlin Conference in its final Act in 1885, committed the State to improving the lives of the inhabitants. From the beginning, however, Leopold essentially ignored these conditions and ran the Congo brutally, using a mercenary force, for his own personal gain. He extracted a fortune from the Congo, initially by the collection of ivory, and after a rise in the price of rubber in the 1890s, by forcing the population to collect sap from rubber plants. His harsh regime was directly or indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people. The Congo became one of the most infamous international scandals of the early 20th century, and Leopold was ultimately forced to relinquish control of it to the government of Belgium.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Leopold II of Belgium" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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