Historiography of Congo Reform

By Dr. Dean Pavlakis, Canisius College (Buffalo NY) and Carroll College (Helena MT)

This historiography should be considered a work in progress. Comments are welcome and the document will be updated.

At the beginning of my research on the Congo, I had been taken with Hochschild’s notion that the story of the Congo Free State and its demise was largely unknown when his 1998 book came out. From a popular perspective, this was largely true; in fact, the Congo had to be rediscovered in waves over the years by new generations in places like Britain and the United States. Hochschild and one of his strongest critics, Jean-Luc Vellut, agree that the story of Congo exploitation and reform vanished in Belgian popular consciousness and government circles for many decades during what Hochschild has called “the great forgetting.”[1] The vagaries of popular history notwithstanding, the study of the Congo Free State and the reform movement among international scholars has continued without much of a break since Leopold’s death in 1909.  In Belgium, once Jean Stengers rekindled and sustained these studies in 1949, there has been a steady historiography.[2] This historiography will serve to introduce the novice to the main figures and currents in the treatment of the reform movement over these years.

The first published history appeared only three years after the CRA dissolved, at a time when the First World War made Leopold’s Congo seem like very old news. The American journalist Herbert Adams Gibbons in his 1916 book, The New Map of Africa 1900-1916, drew lessons from the incompetence and brutality of countries that were newcomers to the business of administering colonies.[3] The Congo question was still alive in Britain and the US in 1916 because Casement’s hanging for treason had led many people, especially Belgians, to conclude that the reformers had misled the British public. Gibbons wrote in part to rehabilitate the movement and its importance, praising the British public’s disinterested drive for justice. Gibbons contrasted Britain’s commitment to reform with Belgian inertia both during and after Leopold’s personal rule in the Congo. Though several Belgians attacked Leopold’s rule, the absence of a widespread reform movement and the unwillingness of most Belgians to take any responsibility for the problems led Gibbons to charge Belgium with complicity in Leopold’s crimes. This was a difficult stand to take during the war when Belgium’s innocence and victimhood at German hands were rallying cries for the British war effort, but Gibbons pointedly observed that Belgians had committed crimes on a far greater scale than the German occupiers.

Gibbons began the most pervasive school of historiography by giving primary credit for the improvement in the Congo to the reformers and especially to Morel. There is ample support for this heroic narrative in the documents, many written by Morel or his allies, and the resulting story is dramatic and interesting. This approach has several weaknesses, however, despite Morel’s undoubted energy and courage. First, these historians are following Morel’s and Casement’s lead in story and choice of villains, which they did not limit to Leopold and his supporters. Their own actions loom large regardless of impact and their conclusions were not always accurate about the motives of others, including missionary societies, Foreign Office staff, and two Foreign Secretaries.[4] By organizing the narrative around the heroes’ struggle against wicked, ignorant, or misguided opponents, historians can overlook other explanations. In addition, the focus on individuals leads to less discussion of institutions, politics, and other forces. Other humanitarian organizations and the Foreign Office played significant roles, and Leopold’s system would never have ended if it were not for those Belgians brave enough to pursue reform on Leopold’s home turf. Not least, we cannot overlook the Congo Reform Association itself, as distinct from Morel. Perhaps reflecting a belief that organizations are tools of the people who run them, most historians have spent little energy on the Congo Reform Association as a functioning body. In the heroic narrative, the most significant act of the association is to disband in 1913. Yet it functioned even when Morel was largely incommunicado for six months beginning in October 1910.

The Morel-centered narrative has had a long life. Bertrand Russell, who spoke at an APS-sponsored Congo meeting at the Westminster Palace Hotel on 7 June 1904, wrote a case study of the Congo in 1934 firmly in this tradition.[5] By this account, Morel and the Association compelled the British government to take its own consular reports seriously and act. In 1936, rubber industry mavens Howard and Ralph Wolf wrote their popular history Rubber: A Story of Gold and Greed devoting a chapter to what they saw as Morel’s successful and nearly solo battle against Leopold.[6]

The first scholar to draw on what we now know as the Morel archives at the London School of Economics was Robert Wuliger, whose 1953 analysis emphasized the vast economic forces that created the conditions for both the Congo Free State and its nemesis in Morel.[7] Indeed we owe the Morel papers to Wuliger’s diligence. His unfortunately unpublished Ph.D. thesis benefits also from his correspondence with Morel’s widow, Mary. While critical of the willingness of Morel and others to ignore the malign impacts of global capitalism outside the Congo, he replicates the heroic narrative, saying Morel was the CRA, just as Leopold was the Congo Free State. He gives more attention than most others to the details of the movement including the personal relationships, both friendly and hostile, that the Morel papers contain.

In the same year, Mary Elizabeth Thomas argued that the reform movement mattered not at all, because the British government prioritized the entente with France over any humanitarian concern in the Congo. Her contention that the reform movement ended because the British government had other priorities is written convincingly, but leaves out masses of evidence to the contrary, much of which became available after she wrote.[8]

Ruth Slade was the first historian to examine the role of the missionaries. Some, like Hochschild, understand individual heroic missionaries as important, albeit minor, players in a Morel-centered narrative.[9] For Slade, the missionaries were vital to the Congo Reform Association. She says that the “form” of the campaign would have been different without them, though she does not speculate on the counterfactual of the Congo campaign without missionary involvement.[10] In 1970, David Lagergren extended her work with a detailed study of the missionaries in the Equator district in the years before the CRA, creating a nuanced picture of the complicated relationship of the missionaries to the state, the Congolese, the reformers, and the trading companies in these years.[11] Most subsequent historians have overlooked Lagergren’s work, though Robert Harms and Robert Burroughs are notable exceptions. Many draw on Slade’s work, but the emphasis she and Lagergren place on the role of the missionaries in reform found no disciples until Kevin Grant and Robert Burroughs four decades later.

Until the 1960s, the dominant story relegated the Foreign Office to a role as reluctant partner at best in the reform campaign, reflecting the frustration, resentment and anger that permeated Morel’s writings and papers. The opening to a new way of thinking appeared first in Myron Echenberg’s 1964 master’s thesis on Congo reform. His work was notable for its use of Foreign Office memos and correspondence that had appeared in the White Books published for Parliament, illuminating how the British government went about pressing for reform. He nonetheless concluded that Sir Edward Grey deserved much of the scorn Morel poured on him for vacillation when circumstances called for firmness.[12] Echenberg disproved the Thomas thesis about the reasons that the British government ended its pressure on Belgium, affirming that the Foreign Office made this because of favorable, though not ideal, reports by British consuls on the Congo. Documents that subsequently became available to historians reinforced Echenberg’s argument. He also continued the endorsement of Morel’s central role in determining British policy, reflecting Morel’s editorials in the Organ. Although Echenberg’s stress on published Foreign Office papers was an important step forward, his thesis remained unknown to subsequent writers.

In the next few years, as many previously confidential Foreign Office documents became available for the first time, two other historians examined its activities and impact closely. In 1966 and 1968, William Roger Louis likewise superseded the Morel-based narrative of official vacillation to portray the Foreign Office in as an active, autonomous agent, making choices from options generated through discussion among its personnel that had both helped and hindered reform, especially from 1907 on.[13] (His work also opened the historiography to a full appreciation of Roger Casement’s role in the movement’s formation and ongoing work, and considered other figures, such as John Harris and Arthur Hardinge.)[14] Louis collaborated with Jean Stengers, the pioneering Belgian historian of the birth, functioning and demise of the Congo Free State. Silvanus J.S. Cookey expanded this process to show more comprehensively how Congo reform resulted from the actions of the Foreign Office. The reform movement’s influence on public events waned over time. Cookey’s book weaves together the narrative of the reformers with what occurred in the Foreign Office to give a more complete picture of how reform actually occurred. Taking this argument further, John Bremner Osborne has shown how Grey’s objective was the same as the Congo Reform Association’s, within the context of, and at the pace of, international diplomacy. Casement’s successors in the Congo, especially Consul Wilfred Thesiger, made less of a splash than Casement and Morel, but delivered information and recommendations that Grey used to advantage.[15] Foreign Office documents suggest that the reform movement affected events in three ways after 1905: it let Grey plead that popular opinion required him to act, it influenced Grey’s thinking on objectives and tactics, and it convinced him that Belgian annexation alone would not cure the Congo’s problems.[16] Morel’s harsh assessment of Grey reflected his ignorance of what was transpiring among Foreign Office officials, Casement’s enduring hostility to the Foreign Office’s permanent staff, and the reformers’ impatience. Osborne bolstered his argument in 1999 using newly gathered information from the Thesiger papers. In this reading, Grey is the true protagonist after 1905 and especially after 1908. He applied the decisive pressure to ensure the Belgian annexation and the implementation of reforms.[17] It is unfortunate that historians of Congo reform seldom engage Osborne’s research. As an example, the years when Grey pressed Belgium to reform after annexation (1909-1912) do not appear in many accounts. The Foreign Office is essential to understanding how Congo reform ultimately occurred.

The integration of the ideas of Mary Kingsley and John Holt into Morel’s ideology and thence into general discourse regarding African colonialism owes much to the work of Kingsley Kenneth Dike Nworah, whose 1966 PhD dissertation and subsequent writings provide information that is not widely available elsewhere.[18]

One strand of the historiography questions the importance of human agency in ending Congo abuses. Robert Harms, after studying several of the notorious concession companies, found that ruthless exploitation had largely exterminated the wild rubber vine before the reforms took effect. Eradication of rubber vines rendered the rubber tax and the concession itself profitless and obsolete, and thus easy to end. This was a regional story. Statistics indicate there was a decline in the Congo as a whole but not the collapse that applied to the areas that Harms studied. In 1909-1912, production fell 18% from 1908, when the Congo Free State ended, running 42% lower than the 1901 peak.[19] Though rubber was depleted the rubber in the territories of several concessions, other areas maintained and even increased production. The fate of the ABIR, Societé Anversoise, and Lulonga concessions was years away from affecting the country as a whole.[20] The consular reports of 1910-1912 support this view. They reported rubber-collecting abuses through 1911, with coerced rubber labor ending region by region as the Belgian government ended the rubber tax and the trade monopoly. Eradication appears to be a local explanation in this period.

Harms’ work was a vital contribution, not only in the study of the concession areas, but also in its use of economic data. “Red rubber” may have resulted in part from imperial ideology, racism, and the untrammeled exercise of power, but it was at bottom an economic phenomenon.

Starting in 1979, two biographies in rapid succession brought forward new information of relevance to the student of Congo Reform. Barbara Emerson’s biography of Leopold shed light not easily available in English anywhere else on the Leopold’s responses to outside pressure over the Congo and thus shows how the power deployed by the reformers through the British and US governments affected both the king and the political structure in Brussels.[21] The next year, Catherine Cline produced a biography of Morel that, with good reason, looks at the reform movement through the prism of Morel’s personality, beliefs, and actions.[22] Although this perspective is perfectly understandable from a biographer’s point of view, it also has the unfortunate effect of focusing attention on Morel and casting all others into shadow.

The most decisive contribution to the historiography appeared in 1985/6 (updated 2010) with the appearance in Flemish and French of Daniel Vangroenweghe’s Rood Rubber. Leopold en zijn Kongo/Du Sang sur les Lianes. This book chronicles in detail the functioning of the State and the concession companies in the heart of the rubber zone and then meshes this story with that of the reform movement.

In the dozen years beginning in 1991, three popular histories put forward the story of the reform movement without significantly advancing the historiography: two chapters in Pakenham’s The Scramble for Africa, two chapters in Ewans’ European Atrocity, African Catastrophe and several chapters of Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost. All these books lie squarely in the tradition of Gibbons, the Wolfs, and Morel’s own unpublished History of the Congo Reform Movement. The conceptual advances of Slade, Lagergren, Cookey, Osborne, and Harms are absent from all three books, though some of these works appear in Hochschild’s bibliography. There is little acknowledgement of Belgian scholarship except for that of Jules Marchal. The role of the Belgians who brought Leopold’s rule to an end appear as bit players if at all, yet whatever success the reform movement had in a practical sense could not have happened without their work. In a new addition to the 2006 edition, Hochschild does note that he under-appreciated the role of evangelical religion.[23] However, we should give credit to Hochschild for reintroducing the role of two under-appreciated African-Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard. As Robert Burroughs has noted, Williams barely appears in Morel’s own voluminous writings and seldom appeared in Morel’s lists of Congo critics.[24] Hochschild moves Morel squarely into the limelight, a not surprising result given his reliance on the work of Jules Marchal, a former Belgian colonial official whose own researches into the Congo led him to write of the reform movement as a duel between Morel and Leopold.[25]

The revived interest in Congo reform in the new millennium brought new interpretations. The struggle for Congo reform was very much a war of words, judging from the mountains of text that appeared from 1897-1913. Kevin Dunn has reminded us that the reformers’ chief battlefield was representation.[26] The fate of millions depended on whether the reformers’ imagined Congo of unchecked exploitation and atrocity would hold more weight with the public, press, and decision-makers than the counter-narrative of a model philanthropic colony with a few swiftly-punished excesses. As positions hardened during the reform movement, witnesses found themselves assigned to one side or the other, even those who, like Viscount Mountmorres, attempted to show both terrible problems and sound administration. In this polarizing environment, their audiences could choose between idealized and horrific representations. With the upper Congo a long, difficult, and unhealthy journey away, few people had the opportunity to form an independent opinion from personal experience. Dunn’s insights and some similar work done by Aidan Forth are the basis for the theme of contested representations that will appear in my forthcoming book on the Congo reform movement (Pending, Ashgate, estimated publication 2015).[27]

Kevin Grant’s A Civilised Savagery and the associated article that preceded it have been a scholarly success, drawing many citations in a few years.[28] He uses the examples of Congo reform and two other humanitarian problems of the same era to highlight the complexities that propelled and burdened British humanitarianism in an imperial age and received praise from leading scholars Seymour Drescher and Andrew Porter for doing so.[29] The section of the book on Congo reform stakes a serious claim to reinterpreting the subject based on his reprioritization of religion and missionaries in the movement, breaking decades of relative silence since Slade and Lagergren. He documents the importance of the missionaries in creating popular outrage and support for reform through hundreds of atrocity meetings, held mostly at churches from 1905-1908. He further argues, against the dominant Morel-centered historiography, that the missionaries turned around the reform campaign after “E.D. Morel’s failed strategies of protest.”[30]  The work makes important contributions, but in its zeal for its missionary subjects, takes the story far in the other direction as Hochschild intimated in his review of this book, for which a few examples will suffice relating to its skepticism about Morel and the Foreign Office.[31] At the core of its argument is a Foreign Office that refused to intervene until the mass movement forced the issue, seemingly deaf to Fox Bourne’s lobbying, Morel’s torrent of publications, and its own consuls’ reports.[32] In fact, after 1905, the Foreign Office was increasingly active as a force for reform. The key event of late 1905 was the change of government in London, bringing the Liberals into power and Sir Edward Grey to the Foreign Office. Grey had called for Congo reform in Parliament as early as 1904 and continued to be committed when he took office at the end of 1905.[33] He was helped by the release of Leopold’s own Commission of Inquiry report in late 1905, which confirmed the allegations against the Congo Free State, stymieing Leopold’s defenders and emboldening his critics.[34] Grey considered humanitarian action one of the four great responsibilities of the Foreign Office.[35] Foreign Office documents allow us to trace the maturing of his thought and the steps he took on the question, culminating in his obtaining the Cabinet’s authorization to take all measures necessary to pressure Belgium to reform the Congo in October 1909. People who supported reform and had close ties to Grey repeatedly assured Morel that Grey was committed to the cause. People who knew Grey less well were not so sure. Regardless, it is Grey’s actions and the timing thereof that most decisively answer this question, as asserted by Cookey, Louis, and Osborne. The new government policy in 1906 resulted from the change of party and personnel, not lecture tours.

Grant recasts Morel as the “primary spokesman for the merchant lobby.”[36] The term implies that a group of commercial men with primarily commercial interests paid Morel to write and speak on their behalf. This characterization oversimplifies several complicated ideas. First, it conflates two period of Morel’s life. In the 1890s, while an Elder Dempster employee, his journalism advocated in the interest of British commerce, his employer, and even Leopold. As his biographer, Catherine Cline, writes, “The charge that he was the ‘spokesman for the Liverpool shipping interests,’ unfair when it was made after 1904 during the Congo campaign, was an entirely accurate description of his position during the preceding decade.”[37] Nworah also takes pains to point out merchant opposition to Morel, resulting from positions Morel took on a number of issues dear to them.[38] Starting in 1900, his ideology enhanced by his contact with Mary Kingsley and John Holt, he advocated Congo reform despite the willingness of his former boss, the president of Elder Dempster and of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, to buy his silence. Morel himself wrote, “With regards to ‘Liverpool friends,’ I have none” in April 1904; though this exaggerated his alienation from the merchants, it would hardly be the statement of their lobbyist.[39] Instead of being their mouthpiece, as he had been in the 1890s, Morel now sought to convince the merchants to support Congo reform in the interests of both humanity and commerce, but with limited success as his frustration and lack of financial support show.

My own 2010 article placed the Congo reform movement in its context as a continuance of the humanitarian tradition.[40] Contrary to some accounts, other humanitarian movements working to help distant strangers had drawn on similar motivations and developed the practices used by the Congo reformers.

Most recently, Robert Burroughs has re-examined how Casement and the missionaries as Europeans in Africa gathered and presented evidence on Congo misgovernment, in the process reinterpreting their own roles in Africa and being reinterpreted by their audiences.[41] By addressing the facts of their journeys and the texts they prepared, Burroughs does not have to contend with the twin pitfalls of over-emphasizing or denigrating Morel in the reform movement; he is appropriately present in the background.

A number of recent works have concerned the photographs that were among the chief weapons of the reform movement. Examinations by Sliwinski, Peffer, and Twomey each contribute to our understanding of the creation, use, and interpretation of the images of the damage inflicted by Congo Free State on the African body and society.[42]

At the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Belgium, the introduction of the first exhibit to deal seriously with the Leopoldian and Belgian colonial periods of Congo history was marked with the publication of a series of essays in a volume entitled, La Memoire du Congo: Le Temps Colonial, edited by Jean-Luc Vellut.[43] The key essays by Vellut and Philippe Marechal touch on some of the concerns with the historiography of the Congo Free State and the reform movement, with particular reference to Hochschild. They note that Hochschild revealed little that was new to historians, but the immense popularity of his books brought this knowledge to the attention to a wider audience than the historians had been able to reach.

In 2014, Donald Mitchell addressed the reform movement as part of his new biography of Morel, The Politics of Dissent. It provides a new assessment of Morel that advances the work of Cline and others, while carrying on the biographer’s preference for placing his subject in the limelight. Mitchell argues for a pessimistic assessment of the results of the movement’s efforts for the people of the Congo.

The historiography of the reform movement provides a strong foundation for a more comprehensive interpretation, which should appear, if all goes well, in a book by the present author to be published by Ashgate in 2015. It will address the relative absence of Belgian reformers from the English-language historiography and integrate economics, religious sensibility, the humanitarian tradition, transnational activism, and the hidden workings of the Foreign Office into the old Morel-centered narrative.

APPENDIX: A Selected Chronological Historiography of Congo Reform

1916:     Herbert Adams Gibbons, The New Map of Africa (1900-1916), 147-172.

1934:     Bertrand Russell, “Imperialism: The Congo,” in Freedom and Organization, 1814-1914, 450-456.

1936:     Howard and Ralph Wolf, Rubber: A Story of Glory and Greed.

1953:     Robert Wuliger, “The Idea of Economic Imperialism with Special Reference to the Life and Work of E. D. Morel”

1953:     Mary Elizabeth Thomas. “Anglo-Belgian Military Relations and the Congo Question, 1911-1913,” The Journal of Modern History.

1955:     Ruth Slade, “English Missionaries and the Beginning of the Anti-Congolese Campaign in England,” Revue Belge de Philologie d’Histoire.

1957:     Ruth Slade, “King Leopold II and the Attitude of English and American Catholics towards the Anti-Congolese Campaign,” Zaire.

1959:     Ruth Slade, English-Speaking Missions in the Congo Independent State.

1962:     Ruth Slade, King Leopold’s Congo.

1963:     Neal Ascherson, The King Incorporated: Leopold the Second and the Congo.

1963:     Catherine A. Cline, “The Church and the Movement for Congo Reform,” Church History.

1964:     Myron Echenberg, “The British Attitude toward the Congo Question”

1964:     William Roger Louis, “Roger Casement and the Congo,” Revue Belge de Philologie & d’Histoire.

1964:     William Roger Louis, “The Stokes Affair and the Origins of the Anti-Congo Campaign, 1895-1896,”

1966:     Roger Anstey, King Leopold’s Legacy.

1966:     William Roger Louis, “The Triumph of the Congo Reform Movement, 1905-1908,” Boston University Papers on Africa.

1967       Catherine A. Cline, “E. D. Morel and the Crusade against the Foreign Office,” The Journal of Modern History.

1968:     William Roger Louis and Jean Stengers, E. D. Morel’s History of the Congo Reform Movement.

1968:     William Roger Louis, “The Philosophical Diplomatist: Sir Arthur Hardinge and King Leopold’s Congo, 1906-1911,” in The Bulletin of A.R.S.O.M. for 1968,

1968:     S. J. S. Cookey, Britain and the Congo Question, 1885-1913.

1968:     Bernard Porter, Critics of Empire: British Radical Attitudes towards Colonialism in Africa.

1971:     Roger Anstey, “The Congo Rubber Atrocities – A Case Study,” African Historical Studies.

1971:     John Bremner Osborne, Jr., “Sir Edward Grey, the British Consular Staff, and the Congo Reform Campaign.”

1971:     Kingsley Kenneth Dike Nworah, “The Liverpool “Sect” and British West African Policy 1895-1915.” African Affairs.

1975:     Robert Harms, “The End of Red Rubber: A Reassessment,” The Journal of African History.

1979:     Barbara Emerson, Leopold II of the Belgians: King of Colonialism.

1980:     Catherine A. Cline, E. D. Morel 1873-1924.

1983:     Robert Harms, “The World ABIR Made: The Margina Lopori Basin, 1885-1903,” African Economic History.

1985:     Jean Stengers and Jan Vansina, “King Leopold’s Congo, 1886-1908,” in The Cambridge History of Africa, Vol. 6 from 1870 to 1905, Roland Oliver and G. N. Sanderson, eds., 315-358.

1986:     Daniel Vangroenweghe, Du Sang sur les Lianes (updated edition, 2010).

1991:     Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa.

1996:     Jules Marchal, E.D. Morel contre Léopold II: L’Historie du Congo 1900-1910. Vols. 1-2.

1998:     Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost.

1999:     John Bremner Osborne, Jr., “Wilfred G. Thesiger, Sir Edward Grey, and the British Campaign to Reform the Congo, 1905-9,” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History.

2001:     Kevin Grant, “Christian Critics of Empire: Missionaries, Lantern Lectures, and the Congo Reform Campaign in Britain,” Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History.

2001:     Andrew Porter, “Sir Roger Casement and the International Humanitarian Movement,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History.

2002:     Martin Ewans, European Atrocity, African Catastrophe.

2003:     Kevin C Dunn, Imagining the Congo: The International Relations of Identity.

2005:     Kevin Grant, A Civilised Savagery.

2005:     Jean-Luc Vellut, ed., La Memoire du Congo: Le Temps Colonial. (French)

2006:     Aidan Forth, “The Politics of Philanthropy: the Congo Terror Regime and the British Public Sphere, 1884-1914.”

2006:     Guy Vanthemsche, “The Historiography of Belgian Colonialism in the Congo” in Europe and the World in European Historiography, Csaba Levai, ed., 89-119.

2006:     Sliwinski, Sharon. “The Childhood of Human Rights: the Kodak on the Congo.” Journal of Visual Culture.

2007:     David Renton, David Seddon, and Leo Zelig, The Congo: Plunder and Resistance.

2008:     Peffer, John. “Snap of the Whip/Crossroads of Shame: Flogging, Photography, and the Representation of Atrocity in the Congo Reform Campaign.” Visual Anthropology Review.

2010:     Dean Pavlakis, “The Development of British Overseas Humanitarianism and the Congo Reform Campaign.” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History.

2011:     Robert Burroughs, Travel Writing and Atrocities.

2012:     Christina Twomey, “Framing Atrocity: Photography and Humanitarianism,” History of Photography, 255-264 and “Severed Hands: Authenticating Atrocity in the Congo, 1903-14,” Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis.

2014:     Donald Mitchell, The Politics of Dissent: A Biography of E.D. Morel.


[1] Hochschild, 292.

[2] Guy Vanthemsche, “The Historiography of Belgian Colonialism in the Congo” in Europe and the World in European Historiography, Csaba Levai, ed. (Pisa: Edizioni Plus – Pisa University Press, 2006), 89-119.


[3] Herbert Adams Gibbons, The New Map of Africa (1900-1916): A History of European Expansion and Colonial Diplomacy (New York, The Century Company, 1916), 147-172.

[4] Louis and Stengers, 115.

[5] Bertrand Russell, “Imperialism: The Congo,” in Freedom and Organization, 1814-1914 (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1934), 450-456. In an interesting testament to historical practice, after the Website tenc.net (The Emperor’s New Clothes) posted the Russell piece under the name “Murder for Money: Congo, 1st Genocide of the 20th Century,” subsequent authors have assumed that Russell had uncharacteristically used this tabloid-style headline and even coined the term “Genocide” over a decade before its first use. The word does not appear in Russell’s book. Compare http://emperors-clothes.com/analysis/russell.htm accessed 23 Sept. 2010 with Renton, Seddon, and Zeilig, 256, n. 56.

[6] Howard and Ralph Wolf, Rubber: A Story of Glory and Greed (New York, 1936), 102-135.

[7] Robert Wuliger, “The Idea of Economic Imperialism with Special Reference to the Life and Work of E. D. Morel,” (Ph.D. Thesis, University of London, 1953).

[8]Mary Elizabeth Thomas, “Anglo-Belgian Military Relations and the Congo Question, 1911-1913,” The Journal of Modern History.

[9] Hochschild, 4, 304.

[10] Ruth Slade, “English Missionaries and the Beginning of the Anti-Congolese Campaign in England.” Revue Belge de Philologie d’Histoire 33, no. 1 (1955): 37-73; English-Speaking Missions in the Congo Independent State (Brussels: Academie Royale des Sciences Coloniales, 1959), 399.

[11] David Lagergren, Mission and State in the Congo: A Study of the Relations between Protestant Missions and the Congo Independent State Authorities with Special Reference to the Equator District, 1885-1903 (Uppsala: Almqvist and Wikshells, 1970). We are fortunate to have an English translation from the original Swedish work.

[12] Echenberg, 207.

[13] William Roger Louis, “The Triumph of the Congo Reform Movement, 1905-1908,” Boston University Papers on Africa: Transition in Politics, vol. 2, edited by Jeffrey Butler (Boston: Boston University Press, 1966); Louis, “Reform Association 1904-1913” in E. D. Morel’s History of the Congo Reform Movement, ed. Louis and Stengers, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 170-220.

[14] Louis, “Roger Casement and the Congo,” The Journal of African History 5, no. 1 (1964): 99-120;

Louis, “Sir John Harris and ‘Colonial Trusteeship,’” The Bulletin of A.R.S.O.M. (Academie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer) for 1965 and 1966, Part 6, 832-856; Louis, “The Philosophical Diplomatist: Sir Arthur Hardinge and King Leopold’s Congo, 1906-1911,” in The Bulletin of A.R.S.O.M. (Academie Royale des Sciences d’Outre-Mer) for 1968, 1402-1430.

[15] John Bremner Osborne, Jr., “Sir Edward Grey, the British Consular Staff, and the Congo Reform Campaign,” (Ph.D. diss. Rutgers University, 1971); Osborne, “Wilfred G. Thesiger, Sir Edward Grey, and the British Campaign to Reform the Congo, 1905-9,” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 27, no. 1 (Jan 1999): 59-80.

[16] Osborne, “Sir Edward Grey,” 151, 155, 172, 183-184, 186, 188, 196-198, 221, 231, 294-295, 303-304.

[17] Osborne, “Sir Edward Grey,” ii-iv, 140, 321.

[18] Kingsley Kenneth Dike Nworah, “Humanitarian Pressure-Groups and British Attitudes to West Africa, 1895-1915.” Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1966; Nworah, “The Liverpool “Sect” and British West African Policy 1895-1915.” African Affairs 70, no. 281 (1971): 349-364.

[19] L. H. Gann and Peter Duignan, The Rulers of Belgian Africa 1884-1914 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), 123. 1910-1912 data from Daniel Vangroenweghe, Du Sang sur les Lianes (Bruxelles: Didier Hatier, 1986), 302.

[20] Harms, “The End of Red Rubber,” 88; Osborne, “Sir Edward Grey,” 277-280.

[21] Barbara Emerson, Leopold II of the Belgians: King of Colonialism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979).

[22] Catherine A. Cline, E. D. Morel 1873-1924, (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1980).

[23] Hochschild, “A Personal Afterword,” King Leopold’s Ghost, (NY: Pan Books edition, 2006), 314.

[24] Robert Burroughs, Travel Writing and Atrocities: Eyewitness Accounts of Colonialism in the Congo, Angola, and the Putumayo (NY: Routledge, 2011), 17-18.

[25] Jules Marchal, E.D. Morel contre Léopold II: L’Historie du Congo 1900-1910, Vols. 1-2 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1996).

[26] Kevin C Dunn, Imagining the Congo: The International Relations of Identity (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

[27] Aidan Forth, “The Politics of Philanthropy: the Congo Terror Regime and the British Public Sphere, 1884-1914.” (MA thesis, Queen’s University Kingston, 2006).

[28] Grant, A Civilised Savagery; Kevin Grant, “Christian Critics of Empire: Missionaries, Lantern Lectures, and the Congo Reform Campaign in Britain,” Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History 29, no. 2 (2001): 27-58.”

[29] Seymour Drescher, Review of Civilised Savagery, American Historical Review 111, no. 2 (April 2006): 438-439.

[30] Grant, Civilised Savagery, 60, 65-76; Louis, “The Triumph of the Congo Reform Movement,” 301.

[31] Hochschild, review of A Civilised Savagery, Journal of British Studies 45 (June 2006): 202-203.

[32] Grant, 65-66.

[33] Cookey, 118; Osborne, “Wilfred G. Thesiger,” 63-64; Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa (New York: Random House, 1991), 642.

[34] Ann Marie Clark, Diplomacy of Conscience: Amnesty International and Changing Human Rights Norms (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 35-36, 66-67.

[35] Grey’s 6 November 1913 speech at Newcastle quoted in ASR&AF III, no. 3, 146 and Sir Edward Grey, Speeches on Foreign Affairs, edited by Paul Knaplund (London: Allen and Unwin, 1931), 14.

[36] Grant, 32-33, 50.

[37] Catherine A. Cline, E. D. Morel 1873-1924, (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 1980), 12; Grant may have taken Wuliger out of context, for example, when discussing how Morel was smeared as a French, German or South African agent, a related insult is that he is a “paid hireling of the rubber merchants.” Wuliger, 33.

[38] Nworah, 94-96.

[39] Wuliger, 17, quoting Morel to Emmott, 11 April 1904.

[40] Pavlakis, Dean. “The Development of British Overseas Humanitarianism and the Congo Reform Campaign.” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 11, no. 1 (Spring 2010).

[41] Burroughs, Travel Writing and Atrocities.

[42] Sharon Sliwinski. “The Childhood of Human Rights: the Kodak on the Congo.” Journal of Visual Culture 5, no. 3 (Jan. 2006): 333-363; John Peffer, “Snap of the Whip/Crossroads of Shame: Flogging, Photography, and the Representation of Atrocity in the Congo Reform Campaign,” Visual Anthropology Review 24, no. 1, (Spring 2008): 55-77; Christina Twomey, “Framing Atrocity: Photography and Humanitarianism,” History of Photography 36:3 (August 2012), 255-264; Twomey, “Severed Hands: Authenticating Atrocity in the Congo, 1903-14,” Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis, edited by Geoff Batchen, Mick Gidley, Nancy K. Miller and Jay Prosser (London: Reaktion Books, 2012).

[43] Vellut, Jean-Luc, editor, La Memoire du Congo: Le Temps Colonial. Tervuren: Grand Editions Snoeck, 2005.

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