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To: H-NET List on the History and Theory of Genocide <H-GENOCIDE@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Subject: Re: Maybe 50 Million Murdered in Colonial Democide ------------------ Having just read Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, and followed up on its reviews and what I could find about the Congo Free State on the internet (the best site I could find is http://www.boondocksnet.com/congo/index.html), I'm aghast at the democide I missed. It is probably over many millions, possibly 10 million murdered or more from 1885 when The Berlin Conference formally recognized the Congo Free State (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo-formerly Zaire) to 1908 when Belgium took it over as a colony. The Congo Free State was the private land, not a colony, of King Leopold II of Belgium to do with whatever he wanted. And the massive killing did not stop when Belgium took it over. But amazingly, although the death toll is in the many millions, far exceeding what Germany did to the Hereros (I get a toll of 55,000), the incredible terror, slavery, and death imposed on the Congo natives by one man has been virtually ignored in books on genocide. For example, there is nothing on it in Chalk and Jonassohn's The History and Sociology of Genocide, Kuper's Genocide, and Charny's two-volume Encyclopedia of Genocide. There is one paragraph without estimates of the toll in Totten, Parsons, and Charny's Century of Genocide. This neglect cannot be due to lack of historical information. There was a vigorous international movement at the time led by the Congo Reform Movement, and involving many notables of the day, such as Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, Booker T. Washington, and Bertrand Russell. Debates over what to do about the Congo involved the legislatures and Presidents, or Prime Ministers of the United States, England, France, and Germany. Yet, this democide far surpassed in human corpses most every democide in the 20th Century except that by Stalin, Mao, and Hitler. This mind-boggling democide has been flushed down the memory hole. Why this should be so is beyond this post, but should be the subject of study in itself. To add embarrassment to this neglect, the French in their Congo taken over in 1900 (now the Republic of the Congo) copied Leopold's system of rule and exploitation and thus may have murdered several million Africans as well. No work on genocide that I have mentions this. Just to see how far off I was in my eight-year search for any and all 20th Century genocide, I went through all the tables in my Statistics of Democide (http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills) and tabulated cases of colonial democide I recorded there. For colonies by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom, in Africa and Asia, 1900 and after, my grand democide total is 870,000 murdered. This measures a human tragedy by itself, but is nonetheless puny in comparison to just the many millions murdered by Leopold in his private Congo Free State. I have only a low of 25,000 for this. I recorded no democide for Belgium, although it may be responsible for close to a million once it took over the Congo. And I get just 22,000 forced laborers murdered by the French in building a railroad in the French Congo. Now, we have these estimates: Britannica, "Congo Free State" claims that the population declined from 20 or 30 million to 8 million. A 1904 report by Roger Casement's estimated that as many as 3 million Congolese died since 1888 (cited in Gilbert's History of the Twentieth Century; also in Colin Legum, Congo Disaster (1972). Peter Forbath (The River Congo (1977) claims that at least 5 million killed. John Gunther (Inside Africa (1953) estimates 5-8 million deaths. Adam Hochschild (Leopold's Ghost mentioned above) estimates 10 million, or half the original population from 1885 to 1920. Fredric Wertham A Sign For Cain: A Exploration of Human Violence (1966) estimates that the population of the Congo dropped from 30M to 8.5M, a loss of 21.5 million. As a result of all this, I've reevaluated the colonial toll. Where exploitation of a colony's natural resources or portering was carried out by forced labor (in effect slavery of a modern kind), as it was in all the European and Asian colonies, then the forced labor system built in its own death toll from beatings, punishment, coercion, terror, and forced deprivation. There were differences in the brutality of the system, the British being the least brutal and Leopold and the French, Germans, and Portuguese the worst. We all know what the Soviet gulag was like. These colonizers turned Africa into one giant gulag, with each colony being like a separate camp. As a result of this research, I'm willing to estimate that over all of colonized Africa and Asia 1900 to independence, the democide was something like 50 million. This is way above my original 870,000. Even 50 million may be too conservative. If this figure were roughly close, however, then I must raise my total murdered by governments in the 20th Century from 174,000,000 to 223,000,000. We should all weep.