The Congo Free State was a government privately controlled by Leopold II, King of the Belgians through a non-governmental organization, the Association internationale africaine. Leopold was the sole shareholder and chairman, who increasingly used it for rubber, copper and other minerals in the upper Lualaba River basin (though it had been set up on the understanding that its purpose was to uplift the local people and develop the area). The state included the entire area of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo and existed from 1885 to 1908. The Congo Free State eventually earned infamy due to the increasingly brutal mistreatment of the local peoples and plunder of natural resources, leading to its abolition and annexation by the government of Belgium in 1908.
Under Leopold II's administration, the Congo Free State became the site of one of the worst international scandals of the early twentieth century. The report of the British Consul Roger Casement led to the arrest and punishment of white officials who had been responsible for killings during a rubber-collecting expedition in 1903 (including one Belgian national for causing the shooting of at least 122 Congolese people).
The massive loss of life and atrocities inspired literature such as Joseph Conrad's Heart Of Darkness, and outcries from upholders of the colonial mission like Winston Churchill. The general consensus is that the forced labor system directly and indirectly eliminated 20% of the population of the Congo.
European and U.S. reformers exposed the conditions in the Congo Free State to the public in 1900 through the Congo Reform Association. Also active in exposing the activities of the Congo Free State was the author Arthur Conan Doyle, whose book The Crime of the Congo was widely read in the early 1900s. By 1908, public pressure and diplomatic maneuvers led to the end of Leopold II's rule and to the annexation of the Congo as a colony of Belgium, known as the Belgian Congo.
- 1 Establishment of the Congo Free State
- 2 Leopold's rule
- 3 Economy during Leopold's rule
- 4 Humanitarian disaster
- 5 End of the Congo Free State
- 6 Public recognition and legacy
- 7 See also
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Establishment of the Congo Free State
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The Congo Free State was recognized as a neutral independent sovereignty by various European and North American states. Until the middle of the 19th century, the Congo was at the heart of independent Africa, as European colonialists seldom entered the interior. Along with fierce local resistance, the rainforest, swamps, and attendant malaria, and other diseases such as sleeping sickness made it a difficult environment for European invasion forces. Western states were at first reluctant to colonize the area in the absence of obvious economic benefits. In 1876 Leopold II, King of the Belgians organized the International African Association with the cooperation of European and American explorers and the support of several European governments for the promotion of plans to attack independent Central Africa. In 1877, Henry Morton Stanley called attention to the Congo region and was sent there by the association, the expense being defrayed by Leopold. Claiming a great area along the Congo, military posts were established.
Christian de Bonchamps, a French explorer who served Leopold in Katanga, expressed attitudes towards such treaties shared by many Europeans, saying, "The treaties with these little African tyrants, which generally consist of four long pages of which they do not understand a word, and to which they sign a cross in order to have peace and to receive gifts, are really only serious matters for the European powers, in the event of disputes over the territories. They do not concern the black sovereign who signs them for a moment."
After 1879, the work was under the auspices of the Comité d'Études du Haut Congo, which developed into the International Association of the Congo. This organization sought to combine the numerous small territories acquired into one sovereign state and asked for recognition from the European Powers. On April 22, 1884, the United States decided that the cessions claimed by Leopold from the local leaders were lawful, recognized the International Association of the Congo.
Other powers and their claims
- Britain was uneasy at French expansion and had a technical claim on the Congo via Lieutenant Cameron's 1873 expedition from Zanzibar to bring home Livingstone's body, but was reluctant to take on yet another expensive, unproductive colony.
- Portugal had a much older claim, dating back to Diogo Cão's discovery of the mouth of the Congo River in 1482 and, having ignored it for centuries, was stimulated into remembering it. Portugal flirted with the French at first, but the British offered to support Portugal's claim to the entire Congo in return for a free trade agreement and to spite their French rivals.
- Bismarck of Germany had vast new holdings in South-West Africa, and had no plans for the Congo, but was happy to see rivals Britain and France excluded from the colony.
King Leopold's campaign
Leopold began a publicity campaign in Britain, drawing attention to Portugal's slavery record to distract critics and offering to drive slave traders from the Congo basin. He also secretly telling British merchant houses that if he was given formal control of the Congo for this and other humanitarian purposes, he would then give them the same most favored nation (MFN) status Portugal offered. At the same time, Leopold promised Bismarck he would not give any one nation special status, and that German traders would be as welcome as any other.
Leopold then offered France the support of the Association for French ownership of the entire northern bank, and sweetened the deal by proposing that, if his personal wealth proved insufficient to hold the entire Congo, as seemed utterly inevitable, that it should revert to France.
He also enlisted the aid of the United States, sending President Chester A. Arthur carefully edited copies of the cloth-and-trinket treaties British explorer Henry Morton Stanley claimed to have negotiated with various local authorities, and proposing that, as an entirely disinterested humanitarian body, the Association would administer the Congo for the good of all, handing over power to the locals as soon as they were ready for that grave responsibility.
In November 1884, Otto von Bismarck convened a 14-nation conference (the Berlin Conference) to submit the Congo question to international control. Most major powers attended, and drafted an international code governing the way that European countries should behave as they acquired African territory. The conference turned the International Congo Association into the Congo free State and specify it should have no connection with Belgium or any other country, but would be under the personal control of the King Leopold. It drew specific boundaries, specified that all nations should have access to do business in the Congo, with no tariffs. The slave trade would be suppressed. In 1885, Leopold emerged triumphant. France was given 666,000 km² (257,000 square miles) on the north bank (modern Congo-Brazzaville and the Central African Republic), Portugal 909,000 km² (351,000 square miles) to the south (modern Angola), and Leopold's personal organisation received the balance: 2,344,000 km² (905,000 square miles), with about 30 million people. It still remained though for these territories to be occupied under the conference's Principle of Effectivity.
In 1889 the second conference in Brussels moved to stamp out the slave trade, undertook to protect native rights, and reduced the traffic in liquor and firearms. Leopold, however, ignored international agreements when it suited him, and ruled as an absolute dictator. The abundant supplies of rubber from the Congo, or in high demand across the industrializing world. The rubber workers were treated very harshly..
Leopold no longer needed the façade of the Association, and replaced it with an appointed cabinet of Belgians who would do his bidding. To the temporary new capital of Boma, he sent a Governor-General and a chief of police. The vast Congo basin was split up into 14 administrative districts, each district into zones, each zone into sectors, and each sector into posts. From the District Commissioners down to post level, every appointed head was European.
Three main problems presented themselves over the next few years.
- Beyond Stanley's eight trading stations, the Free State was unmapped jungle, and offered no commercial return.
- Cecil Rhodes, then Prime Minister of the British Cape Colony (part of modern South Africa) was expanding his British South Africa Company's charter lands from the south and threatening to occupy Katanga (southern Congo) by exploiting the 'Principle of Effectivity' loophole in the Berlin Treaty, supported by Harry Johnston, British Commissioner for Central Africa who was London's representative in the region.
- The slaving gangs of Zanzibar trader Tippu Tip had established a strong presence in the north and east of the country and the area to the east of it (modern Uganda), and had effectively established an independent slave state.
Leopold could not meet the costs of running the Congo Free State so set in train a regime to maximize profitability. The first change was the introduction of the concept of terres vacantes—"vacant" land, which was anything that no European was living on. This was deemed to belong to the state, and servants of the state (i.e., any men in Leopold's employ) were encouraged to exploit it.
Next, the state was divided into two economic zones: the Free Trade Zone was open to entrepreneurs of any European nation, who were allowed to buy 10- and 15-year monopoly leases on anything of value: ivory from a particular district, or the rubber concession, for example. The other zone—almost two-thirds of the Congo—became the Domaine Privé: the exclusive private property of the State, in turn Leopold's.
Further, in 1893, he excised the most readily accessible 259,000 km² (100,000 square miles) portion of the Free Trade Zone and declared it to be the Domaine de la Couronne. Here the same rules applied as in the Domaine Privé except that all revenue went directly to Leopold.
Scramble for Katanga
Early in Leopold's rule, the second problem—the British South Africa Company's expansionism into the southern Congo Basin—was addressed. The distant Yeke Kingdom, in Katanga on the upper Lualaba River, had signed no treaties, and was known to be rich in copper and thought to have much gold from its slave-trading activities. Its powerful mwami (big chief), Msiri, had already rejected a treaty brought by Alfred Sharpe on behalf of Rhodes. In 1891 a Free State expedition extracted a letter from Msiri agreeing to their agents coming to Katanga, and later that year Leopold sent the well-armed Stairs Expedition to take possession of Katanga one way or another. Msiri tried to play the Free State off against Rhodes, and when negotiations bogged down, Stairs flew the Free State flag anyway, and gave Msiri an ultimatum. Instead, Msiri decamped to another stockade, Stairs sent a force to arrest him, but he stood his ground, whereupon Captain Omer Bodson shot Msiri dead and was fatally wounded in the resulting fight. The expedition cut off Msiri's head and put it on a pole, as he had often done to his enemies. This was to impress upon the locals that his rule was really ended, after which the successor chief recognized by Stairs signed the treaty.
War with African slavers
Main article : 1892-1894 war in the Eastern Congo
In the short term, the third problem, that of the African slavers, like Zanzibari/Swahili strongman Tippu Tip was solved. Leopold negotiated an alliance and later appointed Tip as Governor of Stanley Falls district. In the longer term this was unsatisfactory. At home Leopold found it embarrassing to be allied with Tip because of anti-slavery sentiment. Even worse, Tip and Leopold were direct commercial rivals: every person that Tippu Tip extracted from his realm into chattel slavery, every pound of ivory, was a loss to Leopold. This, and Leopold's humanitarian pledges to the Berlin Conference to end slavery, meant war was inevitable.
Both sides fought by proxy, arming and leading the populations of the upper Congo forests in a conflict. Tip's muskets were no match for Leopold's artillery and machine guns. By early 1894 the war was over.
Economy during Leopold's rule
While the war against African powers was ending, the quest for income was increasing, fueled by the unwise concessionaire policy. District officials' salaries were reduced to a bare minimum, and made up with a commission payment based on the profit that their area returned to Leopold. After widespread criticism, this "primes system" was substituted for the allocation de retraite in which a large part of the payment was granted, at the end of the service, only to those territorial agents and magistrates whose conduct was judged "satisfactory" by their superiors. This meant in practice that nothing changed. Congolese communities in the Domaine Privé were not merely forbidden by law to sell items to anyone but the State: they were required to provide State officials with set quotas of rubber and ivory at a fixed, government-mandated price and to provide food to the local post.
The rubber came from wild vines in the jungle, unlike the rubber from Brazil, which was tapped from trees. To extract the rubber, instead of tapping the vines, the Congolese workers would slash them and lather their bodies with the rubber latex. When the latex hardened, it would be scraped off the skin in a painful manner, as it took off the worker's hair with it. This killing of the vines made it even harder to locate sources of rubber as time went on, but the government was relentless in raising the quotas.
The Force Publique (FP) was called in to enforce the rubber quotas. The officers were white agents of the State. Of the black soldiers, many were from far-off peoples of the upper Congo while others had been kidnapped during the raids on villages in their childhood and brought to Roman Catholic missions, where they received a military training in conditions close to slavery. Armed with modern weapons and the chicotte—a bull whip made of hippopotamus hide—the Force Publique routinely took and tortured hostages, flogged, and raped Congolese people. They also burned recalcitrant villages, and above all, took human hands as trophies on the orders of their officers to show that bullets hadn't been wasted. (As officers were concerned that their subordinates might waste their ammunition on hunting animals for sport, they required soldiers to submit one hand for every bullet spent.) This was all contrary to the promises of uplift made at the Berlin Conference which recognized the Congo Free State. Starting with Conan Doyle, historians have blamed this on the rubber boom of the 1890s combined with lack of enforcement by the other Powers of the conditions made by the Conference.
Villages which failed to meet the rubber collection quotas were required to pay the remaining amount in severed hands, where each hand would prove a kill. Sometimes the hands were collected by the soldiers of the Force Publique, sometimes by the villages themselves. There were even small wars where villages attacked neighboring villages to gather hands, since their rubber quotas were too unrealistic to fill.
One junior white officer described a raid to punish a village that had protested. The white officer in command "ordered us to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on the village palisades ... and to hang the women and the children on the palisade in the form of a cross." After seeing a Congolese person killed for the first time, a Danish missionary wrote: "The soldier said 'Don't take this to heart so much. They kill us if we don't bring the rubber. The Commissioner has promised us if we have plenty of hands he will shorten our service.'" In Forbath's words:
The baskets of severed hands, set down at the feet of the European post commanders, became the symbol of the Congo Free State. ... The collection of hands became an end in itself. Force Publique soldiers brought them to the stations in place of rubber; they even went out to harvest them instead of rubber... They became a sort of currency. They came to be used to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas, to replace... the people who were demanded for the forced labour gangs; and the Force Publique soldiers were paid their bonuses on the basis of how many hands they collected.
In theory, each right hand proved a killing. In practice, soldiers sometimes "cheated" by simply cutting off the hand and leaving the victim to live or die. More than a few survivors later said that they had lived through a massacre by acting dead, not moving even when their hands were severed, and waiting till the soldiers left before seeking help. In some instances a soldier could shorten his service term by bringing more hands than the other soldiers, which led to widespread mutilations and dismemberment.
Estimates of the deaths during the period of Leopold's control vary considerably. The reduction of the population of the Congo was noted by all who have compared the country at the beginning of the Free State's rule and the beginning of Belgian rule in 1908. Estimates of contemporary observers, as well as some modern scholars (such as Jan Vansina, professor emeritus of history and anthropology at the University of Wisconsin), suggest that the population decreased by half during this period. Others dispute this; the scholars at the Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, find a decrease of 15% over the first forty years of colonial rule (up to the census of 1924).
According to British diplomat Roger Casement, this depopulation had four main causes: "indiscriminate war", starvation, reduction of births and diseases. Sleeping sickness ravaged the country and was used by the regime to account for demographic decrease. Opponents of King Leopold's rule stated, however, that the administration itself was to be considered responsible for the spreading of the epidemic. One of the greatest specialists on sleeping sickness, P.G. Janssens, Professor at the Ghent University, wrote:
It seems reasonable to admit the existence on the territories of the Congo Free State, of French Congo and Angola of a certain number of permanent sources that have been put again in activity by the brutal changement of ancestral conditions and ways of life that has accompanied the occupation of the territories.
In the absence of a census (the first was taken in 1924) to provide an opening figure, it is even more difficult to quantify the population loss of the period. Despite this, Forbath claimed it was at least 5 million; Adam Hochschild, and Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem, 10 million; the Encyclopædia Britannica and Fredric Wertham's 1966 book "A Sign For Cain: An Exploration of Human Violence" estimate that the population of the Congo dropped from 30 million to 8 and 8.5 million, respectively, in that period. This estimate has gained currency with some journalists. An example is The New York Times reporting that that "Under the reign of terror instituted by King Leopold II of Belgium (who ran the Congo Free State as his personal fief from 1885 to 1908), the population of the Congo was reduced by half—as many as 8 million Africans."
End of the Congo Free State
Leopold ran up high debts with his Congo investments before salvation came with the beginning of the worldwide rubber boom in the 1890s. Prices went up at a fevered pitch throughout the decade as industries discovered new uses for rubber in tires, hoses, tubing, insulation for telegraph and telephone cables and wiring, and so on. By the late 1890s, wild rubber had far surpassed ivory as the main source of revenue from the Congo Free State. The peak year was 1903, with rubber fetching the highest price and concessionary companies raking in the highest profits.
However, the boom sparked efforts to find lower-cost producers. Congolese concessionary companies started facing competition from rubber cultivation in South-east Asia and Latin America. As plantations were begun in other tropical areas—mostly under the ownership of the rival British firms—world rubber prices started to dip. Competition heightened the drive to exploit forced labour in the Congo in order to lower production costs. Meanwhile, the cost of enforcement was eating away at profit margins, along with the toll taken by the increasingly unsustainable harvesting methods. As competition from other areas of rubber cultivation mounted, Leopold's private rule was left increasingly vulnerable to international scrutiny, especially from Britain.
Missionaries were allowed only on sufferance and Leopold was able to keep quiet the Belgian Catholics. Nevertheless, rumours circulated so Leopold ran an enormous publicity campaign to discredit them, even creating a bogus Commission for the Protection of the Natives to root out the "few isolated instances" of abuse. Publishers were bribed, critics accused of running secret campaigns to further other nations' colonial ambitions, and eyewitness reports from missionaries such as William Henry Sheppard dismissed as attempts by Protestants to smear honest Roman Catholic priests. For at least a decade, Leopold was successful. The secret was out, but few believed it.
Eventually the most telling blows came from E. D. Morel, a clerk in a major Liverpool shipping office and a part-time journalist, who began to wonder why the ships that brought vast loads of rubber from the Congo returned full of guns and ammunition for the Force Publique. He left his job and became a full-time investigative journalist and then a publisher with help from merchants who wanted to break Leopold's monopoly or, in the case of chocolate millionaire William Cadbury, philanthropists. Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness was released in 1902. Based on his brief experience as a steamer captain on the Congo ten years before, Conrad's novel encapsulated the public's growing concerns about what was happening in the Congo. In 1903, Morel and those who agreed with him in the House of Commons succeeded in passing a resolution which called on the British government to conduct an inquiry into alleged violations of the Berlin Agreement. Roger Casement, then the British Consul at Boma (at the mouth of the Congo River), delivered a long, detailed eyewitness report which was published in 1904. The British Congo Reform Association, founded by Morel with Casement's support, demanded action. Other European nations and the United States followed suit. The British Parliament demanded a meeting of the 14 signatory powers to review the 1885 Berlin Agreement. The Belgian Parliament, pushed by Emile Vandervelde and other critics of the King's Congolese policy, forced Leopold to set up an independent commission of inquiry, and despite the King's efforts, in 1905 it confirmed Casement's report.
The mass-deaths in the Congo Free State became a cause celèbre in the last years of the 19th century and a great embarrassment not only to the King but to Belgium, which had portrayed itself as progressive and attentive to human rights. The Congo Reform Movement, which included among its members Mark Twain, Joseph Conrad, Booker T. Washington, and Bertrand Russell, led a vigorous international movement against the mistreatment of the Congolese population of the Congo.
Leopold offered to reform his regime, but few took him seriously. All nations were now agreed that the King's rule must be ended as soon as possible, but no nation was willing to take on the responsibility. No imperialist nation seriously considered returning control of the land to the Congolese population. Belgium was the obvious European candidate to run the Congo, but the Belgians were still unwilling. For two years, Belgium debated the question and held fresh elections on the issue.
The Parliament of Belgium annexed the Congo Free State and took over its administration on November 15, 1908, four years after the Casement Report and six years after the first printing of Heart of Darkness. However, the international scrutiny was no major loss to Leopold or the concessionary companies in the Belgian Congo. By then Southeast Asia and Latin America had become lower-cost producers of rubber. Along with the effects of resource depletion in the Congo, international commodity prices had fallen to a level that rendered Congolese extraction unprofitable. The state took over Leopold's private dominion and bailed out the company, but the rubber boom was already over.
Order of the Crown
The still-existent Order of the Crown, originally created in 1897 under the authority of Leopold II, denoted supposed heroic deeds and service achieved while serving in the Congo Free State. The Order was made an institution of the Belgian state with its abolition.
Public recognition and legacy
Early 20th century exposure
- George Washington Williams, an African American politician and historian, the first ever to report the atrocities in the Congo.
- William Henry Sheppard, another African American, a Presbyterian missionary who furnished direct testimony of the atrocities.
- E. D. Morel, a British journalist and shipping agent who understood, checking the commercial documents of the Congo Free State, that while millions of dollars worth of rubber and ivory were coming out of the Congo, all that was going back was rifles and chains. From this evidence, he inferred that the Congo was a slave state, and devoted the rest of his life to destroying it.
- Sir Roger Casement, British diplomat and Irish patriot, who put the force of the British government behind the international protest against the Belgians. Casement's involvement had the ironic effect of drawing attention away from British colonialism, Hochschild reports. The Congo Reform Association was formed by Morel following Casement's instigation.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, in 1909, a booklet/journal named The Crime of the Congo, which took him eight days to write.
English language works alluding to Congo Free State
- Joseph Conrad's 1899–1902 novel, Heart of Darkness, which was met with widespread disapproval by authorities and widespread controversy amongst the public.
- Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Apocalypse Now, a popular film about the Vietnam War, draws heavily from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Later English-Language works dedicated to Congo Free State
- Adam Hochschild's 1998 book King Leopold's Ghost and a 2006 documentary with the same title, directed by Pippa Scott.
Lack of recognition and use of the word "genocide"
A motion (EDM 2251) presented to the British Parliament on 24 May 2006 called for recognition of "the tragedy of King Leopold's regime" as genocide; as of May 2006, it had gained 48 signatures, and later died.
Adam Hochschild does not characterize the deaths as the result of a deliberate policy of genocide, but rather as the result of a brutal system of forced labor. The Guardian reported in July 2001 that, after initial outrage by Belgian historians following the publications of Hochschild's book, the state-funded Museum of the Belgian Congo would finance an investigation into Hochschild's allegations. The investigatory panel, likely to be headed by Professor Jean-Luc Vellut, was scheduled to report its findings in 2004. An exhibition by the Museum of the Belgian Congo, called "The Memory of Congo" (February 4, 2005 – October 9, 2005), was set up to tell the truth of what happened in both the Free State and Belgium's later colony. Critics of the museum include Hochschild, who wrote an article for the New York Review of Books claiming he found "distortions and evasions" in the exhibition and stated "The exhibit deals with this question in a wall panel misleadingly headed 'Genocide in the Congo?' This is a red herring, for no reputable historian of the Congo has made charges of genocide; a forced labor system, although it may be equally deadly, is different."
-  In the Heart of Darkness (Adam Hochschild - The New York Review of Books)
- New International Encyclopedia.
- René de Pont-Jest: L'Expédition du Katanga, d'après les notes de voyage du marquis Christian de Bonchamps published 1892 in: Edouard Charton (editor): Le Tour du Monde magazine, website accessed 5 May 2007. Section I: "D'ailleurs ces lettres de soumission de ces petits tyrans africains, auxquels on lit quatre longues pages, dont, le plus souvent, ils ne comprennent pas un mot, et qu'ils approuvent d'une croix, afin d'avoir la, paix et des présents, ne sont sérieuses que pour les puissances européennes, en cas de contestations de territoires. Quant au souverain noir qui les signe, il ne s'en inquiète pas un seul instant." Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "RPJ" defined multiple times with different content
- Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, The Congo from Leopold to Kabila (2002) Page 17
- Joseph Moloney: With Captain Stairs to Katanga. Sampson Low, Marston & Co, London (1893), p11.
- Moloney (1893): Chapter X–XI.
- Hochschild, Adam (1999). King Leopold's Ghost. Mariner Books. pp. 161–162, 229–230.
- Cawthorne, Nigel. The World's Worst Atrocities, 1999. Octopus Publishing Group. ISBN 0-7537-0090-5.
- Bourne, Henry Richard Fox (1903). Civilisation in Congoland: A Story of International Wrong-doing. London: P. S. King & Son. pp. 253. http://books.google.com/?id=jWccAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA1&dq=%22Civilisation+in+Congoland%22#PPR3,M1. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
- Forbath, Peter (1977). The River Congo: The Discovery, Exploration and Exploitation of the World's Most Dramatic Rivers. Harper & Row. pp. 374. ISBN 0061224901.
- Hochschild p.232–233.
- Hochschild p.226–232.
- Hochschild p.230–231.
- Shelton, Dinah (2005). Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. Detroit, Michigan: Macmillan. pp. 621. ISBN 0-02865-849-3.
- Forbath, Peter. The River Congo: The Discovery, Exploration, and Exploitation of the World's Most Dramatic River, 1991 (Paperback). Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-122490-1.
- Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem. Histoire générale du Congo: De l'héritage ancien à la République Démocratique.
- R. J. Rummel Exemplifying the Horror of European Colonization:Leopold's Congo"
- Kakutani, Michiko. "'King Leopold's Ghost': Genocide With Spin Control" (review). The New York Times, September 1, 1998. Accessed March 3, 2010.
- Andrew Osborn. "Belgium exhumes its colonial demons". The Guardian, July 13, 2002.
- "Forever in chains: The Tragic History of Congo". The Independent (London). July 28, 2006. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/forever-in-chains-the-tragic-history-of-congo-409586.html. Retrieved April 1, 2010.
- King Leopold's Ghost (2006) at the Internet Movie Database
- "EDM 2251: Colonial Genocide and the Congo". Parliamentary Information Management Services. Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 2006-05-24. http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=30788&SESSION=875. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
- Adam Hochschild, In the Heart of Darkness, New York Review of Books, 26 October 2005.
- Forbath, Peter, The River Congo, 1977. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-122490-1
- Hochschild, Adam, King Leopold's Ghost, Pan (1999). ISBN 0-330-49233-0.
- The Annales du Musée du Congo, especially "Notes analytiques sur les collections ethnographiques du Musée du Congo" (Brussels, 1902–06)
- Bibliography of Congo Affairs from 1895 to 1900 (Brussels, 1912)
- Blanchard, Formation et constitution politique de l'etat indépendant du Congo (Paris, 1899)
- Butcher, Tim, Blood River: A Journey To Africa's Broken Heart, 2007. ISBN 0-701-17981-3
- Report of the British Consul, Roger Casement, on the Administration of the Congo Free State, reprinted in full in The eyes of another race : Roger Casement’s Congo report and 1903 diary edited by Seamas O Siochain and Michael O’Sullivan. Dublin, 2003.
- The reports of the Congo Reform Association, particularly the "Memorial on the Present Phase of the Congo Question" (London, 1912).
- The Congo Report of Commission of Inquiry (New York, 1906)
- Czekanowski, in Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, pages 591–615 (1909)
- Grant, Kevin, A Civilised Savagery: Britain and the New Slaveries in Africa, 1884–1926, Routledge (London, 2005). ISBN 0415949017
- Hinde, The Fall of the Congo Arabs (London, 1897)
- Johnston, George Grenfell and the Congo (two volumes, London, 1908).
- Jozon, L'Etat indépendant du Congo (Paris, 1900)
- Kassai, La civilisation africaine, 1876–88 (Brussels, 1888)
- Morel, E. D. (Edmund Dene), 1873–1924, E. D. Morel's history of the Congo reform movement; [edited by] Wm. Roger Louis and Jean Stengers, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1968 (includes Morel and the Congo Reform Association, 1904–1913, by W. R. Louis and Morel and Belgium, by J. Stengers).
- Overbergh (editor), Collection de monographies ethnographiques (Brussels, 1907–11)
- Ó Síocháin, Séamas and Michael O’Sullivan, eds: The Eyes of Another Race: Roger Casement's Congo Report and 1903 Diary. University College Dublin Press, 2004. ISBN 1-900-62199-1.
- Ó Síocháin, Séamas: Roger Casement: Imperialist, Rebel, Revolutionary. Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2008.
- Pakenham, Thomas, The scramble for Africa, Abacus. (1991) ISBN 0-349-10449-2.
- Petringa, Maria, Brazza, A Life for Africa, AuthorHouse. (2006) ISBN 978-1-4259-1198-0
- Rodney, Walter, How Europe underdeveloped Africa, Howard University Press. (1974) ISBN 0-88258-013-2
- Stanley, The Congo and the Founding of the Congo Free State (London, 1885)
- Starr, Congo Natives: An Ethnographic Album (Chicago, 1912).
- Torday and Joyce, Les Bushongo (Brussels, 1910)
- Verbeke, Le Congo (Molines, 1913)
- Wack, Story of the Congo Free State (New York, 1905)
- Wauters, Historie politique de Congo belge (Brussels, 1911)
- Ward, Voice from the Congo (New York, 1910)
- Wesseling, H. L.; Pomerans, Arnold J. (1996). Divide and Rule: The Partition of Africa, 1880–1914. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishing. ISBN 0-275-95137-5.
- Heart of Darkness, the novel
- The Crime of the Congo, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at Google Books
- A Journal of a Tour in the Congo Free State, 1905, by Marcus Dorman, from Project Gutenberg
- Catalogue of the Edmund Morel papers at the Archives Division of the London School of Economics.
- "Congo Free State", 1911 Britannica article, 1911Encyclopedia.org
bg:Свободна държава Конго cs:Svobodný konžský stát da:Fristaten Congo de:Geschichte der Demokratischen Republik Kongo#Der Kongo-Freistaat es:Estado Libre del Congo eo:Libera Ŝtato Kongo fr:État indépendant du Congo gl:Estado Libre do Congo ko:콩고 자유국 it:Stato Libero del Congo lv:Kongo brīvvalsts hu:Kongói Szabadállam nl:Kongo-Vrijstaat ja:コンゴ自由国 no:Fristaten Kongo nn:Fristaten Kongo pl:Wolne Państwo Kongo pt:Estado Livre do Congo ro:Statul Independent Congo ru:Свободное государство Конго sl:Svobodna država Kongo fi:Kongon vapaavaltio sv:Kongostaten uk:Вільна держава Конго vi:Nhà nước Tự do Congo wa:Dislaxhî Estat do Congo yo:Congo Free State