The album, compiled by an unidentified colonial agent who was in the Belgian Congo from 1908 to 1909, documents one man's
experiences in the region during the first year of the newly-annexed Belgian colony's existence. The album records the agent's
journey from Antwerp to Matadi and thence up the Congo river to his post at Yoboila (Lomami). The remainder of the album documents
the agent's daily life, local inhabitants and surroundings.
Central Africa was largely unexplored by Westerners before Henry Morton Stanley's expedition (1874-1878) to trace the course
of the Congo river. Excited by Stanley's discoveries, King Leopold II of Belgium, who was anxious to acquire a colony to increase
the prestige and wealth of his young country, subsequently hired Stanley to help him establish Belgium's interests in the
Congo. In 1884 escalating European rivalries for the region were resolved when Otto von Bismark convened the Berlin Conference
to partition the Congo basin. The country of Belgium declined to participate in the colonialization of the area, leaving Leopold
to receive Belgium's portion of 905,000 miles - the lion's share of the area - for himself. Leopold ran the Congo Free State
as a privately controlled corporation with himself as sole shareholder and chairman. His brutal exploitation of the people
and the land for its rubber, copper, and other mineral resources was exposed by British consular reports and by the European
and American press to great outcry in the early 1900s, and in 1908 Leopold's private rule ended when the Congo was annexed
to the Belgian state. Subsequently renamed the Belgian Congo, it remained a Belgian colony until receiving sovereignty in
1960, when it became the Republic of the Congo.
(185 photographic prints)
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