Book Series Modern & Contemporary History (Outside a Series)

Colonial Congo

A History in Questions

Idesbald Goddeeris, Amandine Lauro, Guy Vanthemsche (eds)

  • Pages: approx. 430 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:12 b/w, 3 maps b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2024


A new look at the Congo's colonial history


Colonial Congo. A History In Questions was edited by historians Idesbald Goddeeris (KU Leuven), Amandine Lauro (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 the 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