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Today in Labour History

29 May 1885
Frontispiece from 'The Crime of the Congo' by Arthur Conan Doyle
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The Crime of the Congo

On 29 May 1885, the Belgian King Leopold II sarcastically named his private colony in Central Africa 'Congo Free State' . He introduced a quota system for rubber production for the world market.  Quotas were ruthlessly enforced from the local population with torture methods. Most notorious was the cutting off of hands of those who failed to meet the quotas. The brutalities excited public outrage in Great Britain and the US. Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness (1899) and Arthur Conan Doyles The Crime of the Congo (1909) were based on the human rights abuses in the Congo Free State. The British Consul in neighbouring Boma, Roger Casement, wrote a devastating report and cofounded the Congo Reform Association in 1904. Leopolds rule ended in 1908 when the Belgian state took over.

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