Iconic Photos

A father stares at the hands of his five year-old daughter, which were severed as a punishment for having harvested too little caoutchouc/rubber

(This is an unnaturally long post for this blog, but even if you skim, please pay attention to last two paragraphs).

The largest private estate ever ‘owned’ by man in history was perhaps a chunk of Africa as big as Europe acquired by the Belgian King in 1885. Between 1885 and 1908, Leopold II of the Belgians was the de facto owner — not merely an administrator, trustee, company director, colonial overlord or even king, but an owner in his own personal capacity — of over a million square miles of central Africa, in the form of Congo Free State, with its capital at Leopoldville.

Belgium never had interest in joining the so-called Scramble for Africa, but seeing a boom in demand for rubber (which Congo had…

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