Know anything about the history of the Congo? King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa is Adam Hochschild's attempt at recreating the events of Belgium's takeover of the Congo in Africa in the late 1800s. Of course, this involves Belgium's ruler, King Leopold II, who wanted Belgium to have its own colony, as countries moved towards the practice of imperialism. Since Belgium was small, Leopold II figured that if he was able to obtain the Congo territory, he would be a major contender and rake in a lot of money. Hochschild details not only Leopold, but the entire history of the period, including the major players involved in the takeover and subsequent reforming of the Congo.
One of the things that strikes the reader is the fact that Hochschild has compiled an incredible fountain of resources for this book. Fashioning a rough estimate of the story by using available resources, Hochschild has attempted to make King Leopold's Ghost as fact-filled as possible, and succeeded heartily. The book, although only around 300 pages, is a plentiful trough of information on the subject. Whether it be people, places, deaths, or events, Hochschild has delved deep into the heart of the matter here and written a heavy, resourceful historical portrayal.
It would be commendable for Hochschild just to point out what happened in this era and leave it at that. But he goes further, presenting his own analysis on Leopold, his reign of evil over the Congo, and the reform groups that were established to rid Africa of the ruler. Hochschild makes reference to where good things went bad, where Leopold or the reformers made errors, where sources were destroyed. It makes the book all the more interesting, rather than a dry, "just-the-facts" approach.
Hochschild does not skimp on the heavier parts of the story. In fact, he devotes a whole chapter to pointing out the major causes of deaths in the Congo. This is not to say that Hochschild is reveling in the torture and terror that Leopold's regime inflicted on the Congolese; he is merely pointing out factual evidence that indicates how horrifying and terrible the Congo became under Leopold. The depth that Hochschild goes into on the chicotte, a whip-like device that was used to torture the Congolese, or the violence that is perpetrated on innocent citizens, are things that only the most twisted individuals could conceive of.