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Content on this page:

- Following in the footsteps of Livingstone
- A dirty job for the King of Belgium


More on this site:

- Dr. Livingstone
- Film: Stanley and Livingstone
- D.R. Congo


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How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa
How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa
(By Henry M. Stanley)
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King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa
King Leopold's Ghost
(By Adam Hochschild)
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Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness
(By Joseph Conrad)
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Stanley

Exploration - exploitation

Henry Morton StanleyJohn Rowlands, born January 28th 1841, was the illegitimate child of a woman from Wales. His mother and everybody else deserted him completely in his childhood, and in his early teens he left for America on a ship. He found work as a servant in New Orleans and was more or less adopted by the family he worked for. He took his new name from his employer and now became Henry Morton Stanley. He is notorious for making his own life story look different than it was, and he changed many facts in his autobiography and other of his books. He even lied about his heritage and claimed to be born in USA. Stanley fought for the south-states army in the American civil war from 1862, but was soon captured by enemy forces. To avoid staying in prison he changed side and became soldier in the north state forces.

Stanley developed to become a young and ambitious journalist. He frequently improved his stories or simply made them up. But he was good at it and it kept the editors happy. In 1870 he was assigned by New York Herald to search for the missionary David Livingstone in Africa. Livingstone had been reported missing for some time. Rumors were that he had been killed giving out prayers and medicine somewhere near Lake Tanganyika. Livingstone was already world famous and a best selling author. Any news about him could sell newspapers. Gordon Bennet Jr. , the owner of the New York Herald, was ready to pay a high price for the Livingstone-story. Bennet employed Stanley to find the missing adventurer -dead or alive, so to speak.

After preparing for almost a year, Stanley and his crew of around 170 men followed the same route as Livingstone. They started from the island Zanzibar out of the East African coast. An official expedition led by Verney Cameron had already been sent out, but the Americans (Bennet/Stanley) wanted to prove that they were superior to the British Empire. Livingstone was a legend and it would be a scoop for any journalist/newspaper to find him. A race for Livingstone had started. Cameron had a bad start, fighting diseases - and after several months of trekking it was Stanley who caught up with Dr. Livingstone.

Sir Henry Morton Stanley, Anglo-American journalist and explorer.

Born:

John Rowlands 1841, Wales

Died:

1904 in London

Following in the footsteps of Livingstone

On November 10, 1871 Stanley approached Livingstone in the village of Ujiji. The village is on the eastern coast of Lake Tanganyika in what we today know as Tanzania. Stanley had found the only other white man in this remote part of the "dark continent". He greeted him with the famous words: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Livingstone was old and troubled by diseases, but with help from Stanley he came back on his feet and continued his search for the source of the Nile. In the next four months they explored the northern part of Lake Tanganyika together. While Livingstone continued his search, Stanley returned to London to tell his story about how the two explorers became friends. It is important to notice that the only source to these events are Stanley himself, as Livingstone did not return from Africa alive.

Stanley wrote a book about their meeting and he was present when the remains of Livingstone was buried a few years later. He probably enjoyed seeing how the British said goodbye to a hero, but did he really understand what Livingstone had done to deserve this honor? Livingstone cleared the way for many years of brutal exploitation of Africa - but his aim was different. He was loved by his African followers when he preached his way through the jungle. He shared his knowledge of medicine and wanted progress for Africa. First all he hoped to stop the inhumane slave trade once and for all. Stanley, on the other hand, clearly despised the black Africans (and any other non-caucasian). Stanley was hard on his helpers and often whipped or chained them as punishment for being "lazy".

Stanley: If you drop that, I will shoot

Henry Stanley is in charge of his African men: "If you drop that, I will shoot!". He must have been really proud of himself as the drawing is from Stanley's own book "How I found Livingstone".

In the following years Stanley returned to Africa exploring deeper into today's D.R. Congo and Uganda. This expedition was different. Stanley traveled with several hundred men, modern equipment, a ship(!) and plenty of weapons. He was still in competition with Cameron and other explorers, so he used guns to force his men forward at high pace. Livingstone didn't kill anyone on his expeditions, but Stanley destroyed everything in his way and fought wars with the local tribes. He managed to navigate on Lake Victoria and finally followed the Congo River all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. He became the first European to map these areas. In 1878 he went back to Europe loaded with Ivory and eager to tell of his findings.

A dirty job for the King of Belgium

King Leopold II of Belgium wanted his own colony abroad more than anything else. He probably already owned everything else and his only aim was to increase his own personal wealth and power. The small country of Belgium had no fleet and was relative isolated in the middle of Europe. Neither the Belgium government nor the other European countries would give the King what he wanted, so he decided to take it himself. He heard about Stanley's discoveries in Congo and was intrigued by the promises of this rich country far away. The King hired Stanley as his personal head of a colonization project with almost unlimited resources. The official story was that the King had formed the "African International Association for development in Central Africa" - and Stanley was expected to make local contacts on his expedition. Stanley had become famous from his meeting with Livingstone, and this story probably gave the expedition some credibility. But compared to Livingstone, Stanley suffered from a complete lack of moral.

Stanley was in Africa once again. This time he started his expedition from the Atlantic coast and he brought with him hundreds of workers. He struggled his way into Congo, put ships in Congo River, constructed roads and railways at an amazing speed. Stanley cleared all obstacles for the greedy ambitions of the Belgian King. When moving forward, he was very efficient in cheating or forcing the local chiefs to sell their land and submit to horrible conditions of the new owner. Stanley became more and more brutal in his methods and did not hesitate to shoot the Africans. Soon he had conquered the country and King Leopold had complete control with what was now called the "Congo Free State". Free trade of course, certainly not free for the people living there. The horrors and tragedies in Africa during colonialism are endless, but it is probably safe to assume that no place were as evil a place as the huge Belgian colony.

The King personally owned Congo! The colony was not the property of the Belgian state. The King earned a giant fortune from selling concessions for rubber and mining in the Free State. By taking women and children as hostages, men were forced to work for king Leopold. The King's soldiers also used torture, killing and started a horrible tradition of cutting off hands to prove that their bullets were spent well. The navigator and author Joseph Conrad wrote his famous novel Heart of Darkness after seeing with his own eyes what Leopold II were doing to Congo.

In 1908 the colony was finally turned over to the Belgian government and became "Belgian Congo". Some reforms were made, but at very slow pace and for Congo it was just a new chapter in the tragedy.

Stanley did an outstanding job for King Leopold II. When he had finished his deeds in Africa, he went to London and was offered a seat in the Parliament. He died in 1904.

 

 

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