Book Series Modern & Contemporary History (Outside a Series)

Colonial Congo

A History in Questions

Idesbald Goddeeris, Amandine Lauro, Guy Vanthemsche (eds)

  • Pages: 380 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:12 b/w, 3 maps b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2024

Temporarily Out of Stock
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59848-2
  • Hardback
  • Temporarily Out of Stock
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-59849-9
  • E-book
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A new look at the Congo's colonial history


"A well-researched, timely exploration of the legacy and relevance of colonialism to contemporary society."
Kirkus Reviews, May 2024

"This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the colonial Congo. This fascinating edited collection offers cutting-edge knowledge in a innovative and refreshingly engaging question and answer format."
Reuben Loffman, School of History, Queen Mary, University of London

"I applaud the appearance of an English translation of this extremely important volume. Cleverly organized around a series of pressing historiographical questions, Colonial Congo brings together an impressive cohort of both established and emerging historians of Congo. All the contributors to the collection succeed in marrying accessibility with scholarly rigour - hardly to be taken for granted in a field which has aroused great political passion and controversy ab initio. Students and teachers of central African history have every reason to be grateful to the editors of Colonial Congo: this is the teaching and learning tool they have long been waiting for."
Giacomo Macola, Università La Sapienza

"State of the art of historical research on Belgian colonial past and twentieth-century DRC, the volume is on the forefront of social science research. The volume covers a wide spectrum of issues, from arts to zoology, with every chapter providing an easy-to-follow summary of current scholarly knowledge followed by a very useful bibliographical guide. It lives up to its editors’ engagement to provide the academic knowledge as ‘usable past’ directly 'from producer to consumer, without intermediaries'. Getting rid of polemical fixation about Belgian colonial past, the volume authors connect Belgian-Congolese history to a wider historical context, an important contribution to general public awareness. In the last chapter, Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem, a leading Congolese scholar, stresses the need to free Belgian-Congolese relations from the ‘colonial situation’ straitjacket. According to him, recognizing shared - even if they are divided - memory as common heritage needs to be the starting point for building a better relationship. This volume is an outstanding contribution to the public history of Belgium’s colonial past and its postcolonial polemics."
Bogumil Jewsiewicki, Laval University


Colonial Congo. A History in Questions was edited by historians Idesbald Goddeeris (KU Leuven), Amandine Lauro (FRNS/ULB) and Guy Vanthemsche (VUB).

With contributions by Frans Buelens, Bas De Roo, Marc Depaepe, Donatien Dibwe dia Mwembu, Mathieu Zana Etambala, Emmanuel Gerard, Idesbald Goddeeris, Didier Gondola, Benoît Henriet, Johan Lagae, Maarten Langhendries, Amandine Lauro, Annette Lembagusala Kikumbi, Ruben Mantels, Michael Meeuwis, Pedro Monaville, Jean-Marie K. Mutamba Makombo, Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem, Jean Omasombo Tshonda, Violette Pouillard, Jacob Sabakinu Kivilu, Jean-Paul Sanderson, Yves Segers, Julia Seibert, Matthew G. Stanard, Daniel Tödt, Sarah Van Beurden, Leen Van Molle, Reinout Vander Hulst, Guy Vanthemsche, and Georgi Verbeeck.


Colonialism tends to arouse emotional debate, often based on incomplete knowledge of the facts and context. Colonial Congo fills this gap by introducing the general reader to the latest academic thinking and research. Answering concrete questions, pre-eminent historians offer a unique insight into the history of the Congo Free State and the Belgian Congo.

How did Leopold II’s autocratic government function and what do we know about the victims of his rule? How much profit was made in the Congo and who benefitted the most? What was life like for Congolese men and women during colonial rule and how did they feel about it? Did the Congolese offer resistance, and in what ways? What was colonialism’s impact on Congo’s natural world? How did colonial policy affect infrastructure, education, healthcare and science? Did missionaries give colonialism a more human face? Colonial Congo’s explorations of these issues and more are revealed in this eye-opening, indispensable guide.



1. Why a 'History in Questions'?

Part I – Key Moments


2. The Congo Free State: Plunder Machine in Service of a Ruthless Leopold II?

3. Was There a Genocide in the Congo Free State?

4. Two World Wars: A Turning Point in the History of the Congo and Its People?

5. 1960: The End of the Colonization of the Congo?

6. The Congo Crisis (1960-1963): Proof of a Failed Decolonization?

Part II – Economy and Society


7. From Decline to Growth in Population: What Impact Did the Colonization Have on Congolese Demographics?

8. The Big Conglomerates: How Was a Capitalist Economy Implanted into the Congo?

9. Was the Development of the Belgian Congo Only Possible Because of Forced Labor?

10. How did the Congolese Workers Live? The Example of the Union Minière du Haut-Katanga (UMHK)

11. Agriculture in the Colonial Congo: A Success Story at the Expense of the Rural Population?

12. Infrastructure, Urban Landscapes and Architecture: Traces of 'Development' or Instruments of 'Exploitation'?

13. The Congo, A Colony Heading for 'Development'?

14. The Congolese Community in Belgium: An Unintended 'By-product' of Colonial Rule?

Part III – Governance and Power


15. Repression: Was the Congo a Less Violent Colony after Leopold II?

16. Resistance in the Belgian Congo: The Many Paths of Disobedience

17. Did the Belgian Colonizer Introduce Racism and an Ethnic Identity into the Congo?

18. The Colonial State and the African Elite: A History of Subjugation?

19. Women, Sexuality, Métissage: Colonization's 'Taboo' Topics?

20. Linguistic Diversity: Whose Languages Were Used in the Colony?

Part IV – The 'Civilizing Mission'


21. Missionaries: A Human Dimension to Colonization?

22. Health Care: The Jewel in Belgian Colonization's Crown?

23. Colonial Education in the Congo: More Than a Paternalistic One-way Street?

24. Colonial Propaganda: The Awakening of a Belgian Colonial Consciousness?

25. Science: Belgian Colonialism's Accomplice?

26. Did the Belgian Colonizer Create, Destroy or Steal Congolese Art?

27. Animals and the Environment in the Congo: Was Nature Conservation the Same as Nature Protection?

28. The Colonial Past through a Belgian Lens: From White Nostalgia to Decolonial Debate

29. The Colonial Past through a Congolese Lens: From Red Rubber to Red Coltan

30. Photographic Essay


About the Authors

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