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Land of Tears: The Exploration and Exploitation of Equatorial Africa

Robert Harms

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African history

A prizewinning historian's epic account of the scramble to control equatorial Africa

In January 1885, the powers of Europe gathered in Berlin to set ground rules for dividing Africa and its lucrative natural resources among themselves. In the years that followed, they rapidly laid claim to nearly all of the continent. Africa's division and conquest might appear today to have been inevitable. But the outcome was far from certain. Drawing upon decades of research, esteemed historian Robert Harms shows how outsiders from Europe, America, and the Arab world competed for resources, money, fame, and power in the Congo rainforest. Reconstructing this chaotic process, Land of Tears provides a comprehensive depiction of how invaders into the Congo basin transformed the region in just a few decades from terra incognita to the most brutally exploited region of Africa.

For many centuries, the peoples of the Congo rainforest kept the disruptive forces of the global economy at arm's length, shielded on the west by the cataracts of the lower Congo River and on the east by the lakes and mountains of the Albertine rift. During the second half of the nineteenth century-in a process known as the "Scramble for Africa"-traders, explorers, and empire builders breached the barriers and moved rapidly into the Congo basin, first from the east and then from the west. By the 1880s, merchants of ivory, slaves, and rubber, operating under the authority of the Sultan of Zanzibar, the

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