Selling the Congo: A History of European Pro-Empire Propaganda and the Making of Belgian Imperialism

Selling the Congo: A History of European Pro-Empire Propaganda and the Making of Belgian Imperialism

Selling the Congo: A History of European Pro-Empire Propaganda and the Making of Belgian Imperialism

Selling the Congo: A History of European Pro-Empire Propaganda and the Making of Belgian Imperialism

Synopsis

Belgium was a small, neutral country without a colonial tradition when King Leopold II ceded the Congo, his personal property, to the state in 1908. For the next half-century Belgium not only ruled an African empire but also, through widespread, enduring, and eagerly embraced propaganda, produced an imperialist-minded citizenry. Selling the Congo is a study of European pro-empire propaganda in Belgium, with particular emphasis on the period 1908-60. Matthew G. Stanard questions the nature of Belgian imperialism in the Congo and considers the Belgian case in light of literature on the French, British, and other European overseas empires. Comparing Belgium to other imperial powers, the book finds that pro-empire propaganda was a basic part of European overseas expansion and administration during the modern period. Arguing against the long-held belief that Belgians were merely "reluctant imperialists", Stanard demonstrates that in fact many Belgians readily embraced imperialistic propaganda. Selling the Congo contributes to our understanding of the effectiveness of twentieth-century propaganda by revealing its successes and failures in the Belgian case. Many readers familiar with more-popular histories of Belgian imperialism will find in this book a deeper examination of European involvement in central Africa during the colonial era.

Excerpt

In 1984 my family moved to Brussels, Belgium; my brothers and I attended an international school in Waterloo where we could see the Butte du Lion—the monument to Wellington’s victory over Napoleon—from some of the school’s top-floor classrooms. One day, my science classmates and I went on a field trip to the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren. As a recently expatriated American preteen, I was ignorant of Belgian politics, society, and culture, but I still remember wondering: Why was this absolutely enormous museum about central Africa located in the middle of little Belgium? I also remember that during the several years my family lived in Belgium, I heard about the Zairian government’s repeated demands that artifacts and other materials be repatriated to central Africa, and the Belgian government’s steadfast refusal to do so. I was puzzled why Belgium would care so much about African artifacts from such a faraway place to the point of sticking tenaciously, for years, to an apparently unethical position.

Fifteen years and five changes of address later, I was sitting in a graduate seminar on European imperialism with Bill Cohen at Indiana University-Bloomington in spring semester of 2000. The year previous I had left my lobbying job in Washington DC to go to graduate school to study European history and especially modern European imperialism. Although my time in Belgium . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.