Hist 2c, L 11: Imperialism as a World System
by H. Marcuse, May 5, 2003 [King Leopold's Ghost added 2/4/06]

How do we divide the globe into regions?
How are those regions interconnected?


Imperialism (political, economic, cultural)

Goal of all 3: economic extraction

Colonialism: 2 main types

Scramble for Africa, 1880s

Compare maps of Africa in the 1780s and Africa in 1914

Caricature showing a King Leopold snake strangling an AfricanBook cover of Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's GhostKing Leopold's Ghost

On Feb. 4, 2006 I saw the new documentary King Leopold's Ghost at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. I wrote the following summary for the imdb: Based on Adam Hochschild's 1998 book, this documentary recounts the horrors wreaked by Belgian King Leopold II (1865-1909) on the population of the Congo. The film shows how the legacies of that barbaric exploitation continue until today--with the hand-mining of coltan (Columbite-Tantalite), a rare metal used in cell phones. (see UN coltan page)
Comment: This is an extremely powerful and moving film, right down to the footage of King Baudouin's distorted and condescending independence speech in 1960 and George H.W. Bush's praise of dictator Mobutu in 1989. It follows Hochschild's book very closely, with quotations and excerpts from the same experts and documents. I think that it might have been better to make it shorter, so that it could be shown in full in normal classroom periods. The pacing is methodical, and the text quotations are frequent and linger, so that not much would have to be cut to enable it to reach a larger audience. The supreme irony of the thousands of severed African hands (smoked, so that the overseers could prove their brutality) in the Congo, and the derivation of Antwerp's name from legends about a giant who severed hands and threw them into the bay (hand-werpen: hand-throwing), as well as the pictures of the smug royal family and blood-soaked colonial architecture in Brussels today should shame Belgium into making true recompense.

  • Googling "King Leopold's Ghost" will bring up links to many reviews of the book.
  • As of Feb. 2006 the web site KingLeopoldsGhost.com is "coming soon".
  • brief review by Sheri Linden in the 1/19/06 Hollywood Reporter
  • The SB Film Festival flyer gives the contact: glory@lindenproductions.com (for co-producer Glory Friend in Santa Monica, CA)
    (back to top)

Film clip

Kipling: The White Man's Burden McClure's Magazine, Feb. 1899
See Jim Zwick's site "The White Man's Burden" and Its Critics"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

Take up the White Man's burden--
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain,
To seek another's profit
And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hope to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden--
No iron rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go, make them with your living
And mark them with your dead

Take up the White Man's burden,
And reap his old reward--
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought ye us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness.
By all ye will or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
Shall weigh your God and you.

Take up the White Man's burden!
Have done with childish days--
The lightly-proffered laurel,
The easy ungrudged praise:
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers.

1899 Cartoon of White Man's Burden in Denver Post1899 Cartoon of White Man's Burden in Detroit JournalWhite Man's Burden: critical cartoons

What would YOU criticize on Kipling's poem (he was being serious)? What do these commentator criticize?

Bruce Grit in The Colored American (Wash, D.C.), Feb. 25, 1899

Why talk of the white man's burden;
What burdens hath he borne
That have not been shared by the black man
From the day creation dawned?

Why talk of the white man's burden,
Why boast of the white man's power
When the black man's load is heavier,
And increasing every hour?

Why taunt us with our weakness,
Why boast of your brutal strength;
Know ye not that the children of meekness
Shall inherit the earth -- at length?

"Take up the white man's burden!"
What burdens doth he bear,
That have not been borne with courage
By brave men everywhere?

Then why the white man's burden?
What more doth he bear than we --
The victims of his power and greed
From the great lakes to the sea?


The "Three Worlds"

Film clip

lecture by H. Marcuse on 5/6/03; outline prepared for web on 5/7/03.
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