Monday, July 28, 2014

"The biggest illusion, of course, was that victory would be quick and easy."

It has been 16 years since Adam Hochschild's gripping King Leopold's Ghost, which tells a story none of us know, but should.

King Leopold's Ghost (1998) is a best-selling popular history book by Adam Hochschildthat explores the exploitation of the Congo Free State by King Leopold II of Belgium between 1885 and 1908, as well as the atrocities that were committed during that period.[1]
The book aims to increase public awareness of crimes committed by European colonial rulers in Africa. It was refused by nine of the ten U.S. publishing houses to which an outline was submitted, but became an unexpected bestseller and won the prestigious Mark Lynton History Prize for literary style. It also won the 1999 Duff Cooper Prize. By 2013, more than 600,000 copies were in print in a dozen languages.

Ironically, Germany's violation of Belgian neutrality in 1914 brought England into the Great War, which began when Austria-Hungary armies invaded Serbia ... and as we'd say in these parts, had their asses handed to them, at least at first. Hochschild later wrote about the people who opposed the conflagration.

"To End All Wars" redux.

In short: It was a hundred years ago today. We really ought to know and remember these things.

Colonial Folly, European Suicide, by Adam Hochschild (NYT)

TURNER, Me. — ONE hundred years ago today, Austro-Hungarian artillery and gunboats on the Danube began shelling Serbia — the first shots of the great cataclysm that over the next four and a half years would remake our world for the worse, in every conceivable way. We think of the First World War as having its causes in Europe, where the greatest bloodshed and destruction would take place. But several of the illusions that propelled the major powers so swiftly into war had their roots in far corners of the world.

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