Colonialism in the Congo Basin: 1880-1940

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This exceptional study of the Mongo people of the upper Congo River basin focuses on the evolution of Mongo work patterns from the period of the late nineteenth century to 1940, the high-water mark of the colonial period. It brings new evidence from oral histories, anthropological research, and archival records to build on or to correct colonial ethnographic accounts. From this fresh vantage point, Nelson reassesses colonial labor policies and relates them to today’s rural poverty and underdevelopment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Nelson’s book follows in the tradition of such famous muckrakers who have denounced the colonial exploitation of central Africans as Joseph Conrad and André Gide. But it differs from those impressionistic and anecdotal efforts by providing the reader access to the actual documents which outlined the methods to be utilized in extorting much more than a pound of flesh from a previously vibrant Mongo society. The feeling of outrage that progressively comes from reading the words of company agents, colonial officials, and African victims is carefully stimulated by Nelson’s method of presentation … A superb, detailed focus on the colonial experience of a tiny region of the vast African continent.”

International Journal of African Historical Studies

Nelson (history, US Naval Academy) combines archival and neglected oral sources with anthropological research to explore the changing patterns of work among the Mongo, a people of the forest regions of the Congo basin, and to reconstruct their experiences under colonial rule. He shows how coercive mobilization of Mongo labor ultimately created the rural impoverishment still existing in Zaire today. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780896801806
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 8/15/1994
  • Series: Ohio RIS Africa Series, #64
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 292
  • Lexile: 1490L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

Samuel H. Nelson is an associate professor of history at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

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Table of Contents

1 In Search of the Mongo Past 1
2 Life in the Equatorial Forest: The Dynamics of Traditional Mongo Society 11
3 Slaves and Ivory: The Development and Impact of Long Distance Trade in the Congo Basin 1650 to 1891 42
4 "Red Rubber": Forced Labor, Violence, and the Struggle for Survival 1891-1910 79
5 Copal and Palm Kernels: The Opportunities and Demands of Colonial "Collaboration" 1908-29 113
6 Compulsory Labor and Plantation Society in the 1930s: The Destruction of Mongo Traditional Society 152
7 Adaptation, Innovation, and Change: The Colonial Experience in Perspective 194
Notes 204
Works Cited 245
Index 271
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