King Leopold II

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King Leopold II (1835-1909) was the king of Belgium from 1865 until his death. He is best known for his brutal rule over the Congo Free State, the present day Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo Free State was named as a Free State, but this was because it was a private kingdom of Leopold which he governed independently of the Belgian Parliament, making it sovereign and independent of Belgium. He was involved in mass killings connected with rubber and ivory extraction.

King Leopold II was involved himself in African affairs by claiming the Congo via the Berlin Conference.

The cause of his death is a mystery. He was rapidly losing power in the late 1890s and early 1900s. His atrocities against the people of the Congo were revealed by the British press and other European media. After his secrets began to be disclosed, he was forced to admit the truth. Due to international pressure related to human rights abuses, in 1908, he was forced to give the Congo Free State to Belgium.

Further reading

  • Ascherson, Neal. The King Incorporated: Leopold II in the Age of Trusts (1963) online edition
  • Emerson, Barbara. Leopold II of the Belgians: King of Colonialism. (1979). 324 pp.
  • Slade, Ruth. King Leopold's Congo: Aspects of the Development of Race Relations in the Congo Independent State (1962) online edition
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