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Research Paper on Belgium Imperialism in Congo

EssayChat / Dec 17, 2018


There are writers whose are known throughout the world because of the impact of the works that have been written. One such writer is Mark Twain as he has written many works that are different discussing varied subjects of interest. One such work is "King Leopold's Soliloquy" which was a pamphlet written by Mr. Twain in 1905. The work has been defined as a political satire that is a fictional monologue by Leopold II defending personal actions. This paper relates to Belgium Imperialism in the Congo with discussions relative to historical themes and their importance, the thesis statement, an overview of King Leopold's Soliloquy, and the connection of Twain's work to the subject of Imperialism. Historical topics of importance relative to Twain's work are discussed and the various concerns relative to Belgium Imperialism in the Congo with specific supporting evidence. The summary unites the information assisting in the understanding of the subject.

Historical Themes and their Importance

Imperialism ResearchIn viewing historical themes there are various types of themes which are accompanied by specific articles that are commissioned. The different approaches enable the prioritizing of different types of source material based on history. Know that when the historians view historical events, they are seeking information concerning different patterns or themes which can be used as tools to enable a better understanding of the past event. The historians also agree that there have been specific themes that have occurred in history that aid in helping people to understand certain events. As an example, geographical themes aid in providing people with the ability to think about the world from the past as well as the present. Historical themes allow the investigation of the past while also linking it to the present which can be a challenging task. Historians view the common ideas or themes forming patterns that aid in the contribution of the understanding of those historical events ("Geographical and Historical Themes" 2018). The study of history can also focus on individual themes even though no event may consist of a single theme but is connected to a combination of themes ("Geographical and Historical Themes" 2018). The thesis for this subject is: "Historical themes have revealed the mistakes and glories of the past. Reviewing the Belgian Imperialism in the Congo can allow lessons taught relative to horrendous cruelty to a disadvantaged people."

Overview of "King Leopold's Soliloquy" by Mark Twain

A key factor of this work by Twain is the engaging of the work with the many atrocities occurring in the Congo at this time in history. The writer is most successful in lampooning King Leopold II to the evil arrangement of being in charge. The information was written in pamphlet form including photographs and artwork as supporting evidence. The text used highlights not only concerning irony but also the hypocrisy of what was occurring (Twain 1905). Twain is most effective in sharing information relative to this country. He shares that we recognized the International Association of the Congo with Twain implicating the country's obligation to help the people in the Congo. This writer believes that Mr. Twain presented the argument as a means to rectify a wrong in order to help the people in the Congo. What reveals the heart of the work is the fact that the publisher released the information with the proceeds from the booklet being used for the relief of the people in the country (Twain 1905).

This work was also published in 1905, so there is the need to understand the timeframe of the work and imperialism of the Congo which was a most controversial topic. The publisher used the exposure of the information in a pamphlet versus the information being printed in a commercial publication. For this reason, Twain took the work to the Boston Congo Reform Association selling the information for twenty-five cents a copy with all of the proceeds benefiting the association. It appears that Twain being a staunch opponent of imperialism, published this work with the full intention of making a statement that was powerful in the condemning of the barbarism that was taking place in the Congo at that time.

Mark Twain uses Leopold's monologue to identify the fact that the United States, as a model of civilization, recognized the Congo as the Free State and by doing so, endorsed the inexcusable operation of the process. The highpoint of civilization at this point was related to the brutality as well as the savage acts that were taking place in the Congo. Through the use of satire, Twain uses Leopold's voice as a way to mock the Republic of the Congo endorsing his mission of imperialism. The writer also condemns the United States for their refusal in coming to the support of the people in the Congo in their greatest time of need.

The Connection of Twain's Work to the Subject of Imperialism

In viewing the connection of Twain's work to the subject of imperialism, there can be the understanding of Belgium Imperialism in the Congo. By the writing of Mark Twain's "King Leopold's Soliloquy" it can be seen that Mr. Twain was a great participant in the reform movement of the Congo and this was his final as well as intensive anti-imperialist effort. This work seemed to be performed with purpose. The first serious review of Mr. Twain's study of anti-imperialism revealed Mr. Twain to be a foremost critic at the turn of the century wars concerning the empire in South Africa, China and the Philippines (Hawkins 1978). Works by Gibson about the work of Mr. Twain in the arena of imperialism ceased in 1902 without consideration of Mr. Twain's involvement with the Congo and was probably limited to the published sources with most of Twain's Congo writings remaining unpublished at that time.

Imperialism cannot be seen as a cause and effect. In viewing history, Africans and Asians were greatly exploited while being given no rights to do anything even though the mother countries gave them modern culture. The colonies inside colonies fought because they wanted independence as well as their government and rule. In the middle of meeting the daily survival dynamics, writers have become insensible to the distressing effects of cultural imperialism. The term cultural imperialism raises questions of cultural identity and government policy (Mataire 2015).

When viewing occurrences over the last decades of the 19th century, the vast unknown African continent has been overrun by the sudden wave of European imperialist expansion. This occurrence aids in the substantiation of what was discussed in Mark Twain's writings. Driven by nationalist pride inclusive of imperial ambitions as well as the hope of acquiring substantial new economic resources; the leading nations of Europe sought to claim some of the African nations for themselves (Hawkins 1978). It is also equally important to note that most of the African colonies at the time to include the Congo Free State, were created for the economic exploitation of natural resources as well as labor. There were significant exports from the Congo region to include ivory, rubber, as well as precious minerals. These products were highly profitable as well as in high demand for the country of Europe. This information allows the gaining of insight relative to the region of the Congo.

While Mark Twain revealed his criticism of imperialism, it is not seen as much in memories that have been created relative to his works. In the 1900s he was seen as radical in his beliefs with those beliefs being somewhat scarce today. It can also be seen as a daring move during this time to voice his hatred for people being mistreated and to place that opposition in words even if the words were used in a satirical reference as can be seen in King Leopold's Soliloquy (Pal 2018).

The Historical Topics of Importance Relative to Twain's Work

Twain revealed that mass suffering occurred in the Congo, but it should also be known that in the Congo the mass suffering had been a way of life for the people in reality since the Belgian King Leopold enslaved millions of people in the 19th century. The pictures that were printed in Twain's pamphlet reveal the horror experienced by the people, but other horrors were also experienced in this country bringing about the need for the writing by Twain. Another author shares what was seen occurring in the Congo at this time. He saw the picture of a man sitting in a missionary home in the Congo with a face that was used in a portrait with sorrow that was beyond words. On the floor near him was the small hand and foot of his five-year-old daughter who with his wife and son had been killed, dismembered, cook and eaten by the soldiers. This makes the pictures that were revealed in Twain's pamphlet seem minuscule. It is believed that more than 30 million people died under this horrific practice.

Imperialism is the policy that allows the extension of a country's power as well as influence through the process of diplomacy or by military force. It was also said that Leopold had believed that "il faut à la Belgique une colonie." He did not want to miss the chance of getting a piece of what he called the "magnifique gâteau africain" (Pal 2018). However, Leopold was having a very challenging time persuading the Belgian government to agree with what he desired. So he decided to acquire a colony alone, and in doing so, he began what was soon called "the scramble of Africa" without a concern for what would happen to the people. Leopold was not only devious but was also greedy thereby persuading the world that he was acting with humanitarian motives. However, in 1884, The Daily Telegraph, wrote: "Leopold II has knit adventurers, traders, and missionaries of many races into one band of men under the most illustrious of modern travelers to carry to the interior of Africa new ideas of law, order, humanity and protection of the natives" (Pal 2018). This information reveals not only the why of Twain's writing but the hardship that was being experienced by the people who needed help in order to escape the evil that was happening to them on a daily basis.

Mr. Twain had no problem discussing his anti-imperialism via several newspaper interviews in the city of New York in the later part of the year 1900. During one interview Mr. Twain shared that "I have read the treaty of Paris [between the United States and Spain] carefully, and I have seen that we do not intend to free but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem... Moreover, so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land." New York Herald, 15 October 1900. Mark Twain wrote "King Leopold's Soliloquy" for the express purpose of raising money for the Congo Reform Association. Through the essay, Twain exposes the degenerate crimes of the Belgian imperialists in Africa with the information being published as a pamphlet complete with illustrated photographs of some of the shackled as well as mutilated Congolese victims of European racist brutality (Titta 1995).


In viewing Belgium Imperialism in the Congo, there is the need to see the timeline of events. While some information has been given concerning King Leopold II, it is of interest to note that he developed a colony that allowed him to have complete control. This movement began in 1874 as the process allowed Leopold the rights to exploit the people as well as the resources in the Congo (Timeline 2018). Leopold coming to power was of importance because the process revealed his greed as well as the inhuman treatment of the Congolese people. Leopold forced the indigenous peoples to sign away their land without knowing the consequences or even what was occurring at the time.

A conference occurred in Berlin in 1884 with the organization deciding to grant King Leopold II his desire to rule the Congo. The process aided in the forming of boundaries being imposed throughout Africa which would, in turn, divide Europe's colonial domains while also eliminating governing by people in the Congo (Timeline 2018). By 1890 the king had exploited the Congo of natural rubber which had become a most valuable commodity. It was also at this time that armies began to steal the women in the Congo while also holding them hostage until the women's husbands brought the soldiers a specified quota of rubber (Timeline 2018). These facts were made known revealing that Leopold was cruel as well as greedy individual thereby not being fit to be a ruler. This great devastation was the massive piece of the tragic history of the Congo.

Twain's work, "King Leopold's Soliloquy," revealed the truth of what was occurring to the people in the Congo with the hope of bringing a change to the situation. By way of comparison, it is most instructive to look at the evolution of the leaders of the socialist and labor movements relative to imperialism. In 1898, the convention of the American Federation of Labor advised workers to "call upon their representatives with no uncertain voice to save them from the dangers...of imperialism (Titta 1995)." It is because of this process that the AFL president Samuel Gompers was invited to become a vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League.

Twain was able to do through his writing something that probably would not have occurred during this time in any other manner. He stood by his convictions relative to helping the people of the Congo and through his writing could raise money for that cause. The author was not pleased that the United States did not come quickly to the aid of a people. However, it is totally important to see that Mr. Twain was not just pleased with writing about the abuse that the people were enduring and raising money for the cause but he also spoke about his distaste for the situation in venues that could also share that conviction. Mark Twain also allowed his name to be used by the first league with that league reconstituting itself in 1905. He set an example that was even used by the reformist labor lieutenants who had exercised shameful silence on the rape of the Philippines as well as the genocide in the Congo which was the signification of acceptance of the rule of the bourgeoisie (Titta 1995). The process led to the criminal embrace of rulers in the wanton slaughter of the first imperialist world war which occurred from 1914 through 1918 (Titta 1995). Belgium Imperialism in the Congo was a shameful event that is still affecting the country today.


"Geographical and Historical Themes." 2018.

Baum, Joan. "Mark Twain on the Congo." Mark Twain Journal 17, 1974: 7-9.

Hawkins, Hunt. "Mark Twain's Involvement with The Congo Reform Movement." The New England Quarterly, 1978: 147.

Independent, The. The Tragic History of the Congo. 2006.

Mataire, Lovemore. Impact of Cultural Imperialism, Norms. 2015.

Pal, Amitabh. How Mark Twain's Politics are Obscured in his Museum. 2018.

Study, School of Advanced. "Themes - Making History." 2008.

Timeline. Imperialism in the Congo. 2018.

Titta, R. "Mark Twain and the Onset of the imperialist period." 1995.

Twain, Mark. "King Leopold's Soliloquy." 1905.

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