THE RIVER CONGO by Peter Forbath


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In the Alan Moorehead tradition, a former Time-Life correspondent traces the opening of the Congo basin and illumines some of the forces which shaped the troubled land now called Zaire. It is a strange story. Ten years before Columbus first landed in the West Indies, Portuguese navigators, seeking the route to the East Indies, discovered the estuary of the Congo and an Iron Age kingdom whose rulers, eager for development, converted to Christianity, imitated European ways, and sent African students to Portugal. One of the latter returned a Roman Catholic bishop--the first and last of his race for many centuries. A victim of the slave trade which destroyed or demoralized nearly all African societies within its reach, the Kingdom of the Congo, and its privileged relationship with the Kingdom of Portugal, rapidly degenerated. All this is told in colorful detail, along with the travails of the explorers blocked by great stretches of unnavigable rapids and hostile, sometimes cannibal, tribes. It was not until the late 19th century that Livingstone, seeking the source of the Nile, unwittingly stumbled upon the source of the Congo, and Stanley successfully followed the river from its source to the sea. In the country opened up by Stanley, the King of the Belgians promoted a fantastic empire--a profit making venture featuring mass murder and mutilation. When the scandal stank too badly to be ignored, King Leopold's Congo Free State was transformed into the Belgian Congo--a vast improvement over its predecessor but an inadequate school for serf-government. Well-fleshed popular history by a promising new old hand.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row