Land of tears The exploration and exploitation of equatorial Africa

Robert Harms, 1946-

Book - 2019

"In Land of Tears, historian Robert Harms reconstructs the chaotic process by which the heart of Africa was utterly transformed in the nineteenth century and the rainforest of the Congo River basin became one of the most brutally exploited places on earth. Ranging from remote African villages to European diplomatic meetings to Connecticut piano-key factories, Harms reveals how equatorial Africa became fully, fatefully, and tragically enmeshed within our global world"--

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Subjects
Genres
History
Published
New York : Basic Books [2019]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
v, 537 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 473-522) and index.
ISBN
9780465028634
0465028632
Main Author
Robert Harms, 1946- (author)
  • Manyema
  • Competition for the Atlantic Coast
  • The Grand Highway of Commerce
  • Homeward Bound
  • A Torrent of Treaties
  • Creating the Congos
  • Rescuing Emin
  • Things Fall Apart
  • Concession Companies and Colonial Violence
  • The "Red Rubber" Scandals
  • The End of Red Rubber.
Review by Choice Reviews

In this fascinating but grim book, Harms (Yale Univ.) traces and analyzes the origins and final implementation of colonial rule in the Congo River Basin and the partition of equatorial Africa through explorers, guns, company rule, backdoor diplomacy, and open conferences. In 11 chapters, he examines the nuances of the "fractured and contested" actions and interactions of key European individuals, organizations, and governments in their pursuit of capital to the detriment of African inhabitants. The first eight chapters examine the activities of explorers through empire building, ivory exploitation, nationalistic rivalries, concession companies, international conferences, and ending the slave trade. The final three highlight European commissions of inquiry that exposed the violence, forced labor, malnutrition, whippings, killings, imprisonments, depopulation, abortions, and diseases that ravaged the Congolese, who were forced to supply stipulated quotas of ivory and later rubber to Belgium's King Leopold and France. Harms stresses that discussions of colonial reform never suggested abandoning the Congo but rather considered what new forms European partition should take. Exploitation occurred with wanton disregard for the consent of the colonized African people, whose resistance was crushed in brutal ways. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels.--Z. N. Nchinda, Milwaukee Area Technical CollegeZacharia Nchinda NchindaMilwaukee Area Technical College Zacharia Nchinda Nchinda Choice Reviews 58:02 October 2020 Copyright 2020 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

With this newest work, Harms (Henry J. Heinz Professor of History and African Studies, Yale Univ.; The Diligent: Worlds of the Slave Trade) mines several sources to show how the European "pillage of the human and natural resources of the Congo rainforest" at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries brought about the disintegration of social and political institutions on the African continent. This subject has been covered before, notably in Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost along with biographies of Henry Morton Stanley, Leopold's primary agent in Africa. Harms devotes less space to analysis of or speculation about the psychological and emotional motivations of the varied actors in this history of atrocities; rather, the author focuses on how those actors at the very outset of globalization exploited the "civilized" world's demand for natural resources, largely ivory and rubber. He also factors in how countries such as Belgium were indifferent to the destruction of African societies in their attempt to build empires, however short-lived the empires were. VERDICT Essential reading for serious students of modern African history.—Joel Neuberg, Santa Rosa Junior Coll. Lib., CA Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Harms (Rivers of Wealth, Rivers of Sorrow), a professor of history and African studies at Yale University, delivers an impressively fine-grained account of the pivotal era from the 1870s through the early 1900s when the African slave trade was supplanted by the commercial trade in rubber and ivory, triggering the "Scramble for Africa" and European colonization of the continent. The story of Equatorial Africa's brutal subjugation to satisfy the demands of American and European consumers is told through the eyes of three key figures: Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh explorer employed by King Leopold II of Belgium; Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, an Italian who worked in the service of France; and Hamid bin Muhammad (known as Tippu Tip), a mixed African-Arab trader employed by the Sultan of Zanzibar and later by King Leopold. Drawing on these men's autobiographies, as well as other eyewitness testimonies and archival sources, Harms skillfully relates how Arab ivory hunters first penetrated the Congo basin rainforest, how rubber concessions moved in when the ivory trade was depleted, and how African villagers attempted to organize and fight back against foreign intruders who "flogged, enslaved, imprisoned, and shot" natives in their quest to drain resources from what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. Meticulously researched and written in a thoroughly engaging style, this exhaustive chronicle offers essential insights into the history of imperialism. (Dec.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"In Land of Tears, historian Robert Harms reconstructs the chaotic process by which the heart of Africa was utterly transformed in the nineteenth century and the rainforest of the Congo River basin became one of the most brutally exploited places on earth. Ranging from remote African villages to European diplomatic meetings to Connecticut piano-key factories, Harms reveals how equatorial Africa became fully, fatefully, and tragically enmeshed within our global world"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The award-winning author of The Diligent presents an epic account of the scramble to control equatorial Africa that discusses the brutal exploitation of the Congo River basin rainforest by Western ivory and rubber markets. 30,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

This study laments the exploitation and resource depletion of the Congo River Basin region by European, American, and Arab explorers and traders in ivory, rubber, and slave labor during the early colonial period. The book considers the impact of internal slave trading in Africa on the anti-slavery movements in Europe, and points to local African resistance to Arab slave traders, Arab ivory-hunting caravans, and European rubber companies. The book draws on primary sources by eyewitnesses including traders, explorers, missionaries, activists, and politicians of the period, as well as the few available oral accounts by African villagers. B&w maps and historical illustrations are included. Annotation ©2020 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A prizewinning historian's epic account of the scramble to control equatorial Africa In just three decades at the end of the nineteenth century, the heart of Africa was utterly transformed. Virtually closed to outsiders for centuries, by the early 1900s the rainforest of the Congo River basin was one of the most brutally exploited places on earth. In Land of Tears, historian Robert Harms reconstructs the chaotic process by which this happened. Beginning in the 1870s, traders, explorers, and empire builders from Arabia, Europe, and America moved rapidly into the region, where they pioneered a deadly trade in ivory and rubber for Western markets and in enslaved labor for the Indian Ocean rim. Imperial conquest followed close behind. Ranging from remote African villages to European diplomatic meetings to Connecticut piano-key factories, Land of Tears reveals how equatorial Africa became fully, fatefully, and tragically enmeshed within our global world.