By: Elizabeth Russell, Andrew Williams, and Amanda Johnson
This approach focuses on the details of the time period rather than the literature itself. It primarily focuses on the background. It answers three main questions. 1. When was the piece written? 2. What were the circumstances that produced it? 3. How does it fit the author’s career?
Joseph Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness between 1898 and 1899.
IN EUROPE-- MAP During this time period, King Leopold II of Belgium was in reign. He was the king of the Belgians from 1865-1909. Leopold founded the Association Internationale du Congo to explore the area. He had an obsession with the idea of expanding his reign because he was in control of such a small country.
DECLINE DUE TO MISTREATMENT--IN EUROPE-- Eventually, Great Britain with help from the U.S. (president of the United States at the time was Benjamin Harrison) pressured Belgium to annex the Congo due to the atrocities and poor treatment of its inhabitants. Once the Congo was relinquished, it was put under control of Joseph Kasavubu and Patric Lumumba which eventually led to a power struggle between the two which lasted for many years.
Henry Morton Stanley wasIN EUROPE-- known for his travels around the Congo river basin. Once he returned to Belgium, King Leopold saw him as a tool to expand his colonial rule. Stanley then returned to the Congo on a conquest for King Leopold. He convinced many of the illiterate and under educated Africans to sign over their land to the king in order to harvest the rubber in the area.
IN EUROPE- The Congo was the only major colony owned by one man Leopold’s army made up of the black Congonese under the rule of white generals took over the vast territory rapidly Leopold’s rule of the Congo was extremely harsh. His whole regime was handled with brute force.
IN EUROPE-- The company that hire’s Marlow is a depiction of Leopold’s operation of the Congo. Once Marlow reaches the Congo, he depicts the “faithless pilgrims” who represent Leopold’s agents Leopold’s greed led him to systematically ravage the inhabitants of the Congo for nearly twenty years.
IN AFRICA-- The colonization of Africa by Europe was the largest and fastest conquest of human beings in history. By 1890, almost all of Africa had been settled and controlled by European nations, such as Belgium. The Congo is found right in the middle of the African continent. It is the location for one of the bloodiest conquest in human history by the Belgian ruler Leopold II.
IN AFRICA-- Africans were forced by white imperialist to harvest rubber and ivory to send back to Europe. The rubber industry grew immensely and the market for rubber tires boomed. Due to Leopold’s harsh rule, the death toll of natives is estimated somewhere between two and fifteen million people.
HOW CONRADS LIFE RELATES: This story is based on Joseph Conrad’s trip to the Congo in 1890. Marlow is a representation of Conrad himself. They both had the boyhood dream of going to discover Africa only to find that it was full of terror and brutality.
While in the Congo, Conrad met many people who would have been able to play the part of Kurtz, but one man named Leon Rom got the part based on his actual home being surrounded by native’s heads.
British- Cape Colony Zimbabwe Botswana Kenya Egypt– took over the Suez Canal Sudan- cotton investments for textiles
French– Algeria Italians– Eritrea Tunis Part of Somalia Morocco Tripoli Madagascar Somaliland Sudan West Africa
Germans– Togo and Ghana Cameroon Portuguese– Angola Nigeria Mozambique Southwest Africa East Africa Interested in trans-Atlantic slave trading.
Spanish– very few possessions Tip of Morocco Rio de Oro Rio MuniMany countries were interested inimperialism because they felt theneed to expand their control to otherlands, such as Africa. There was also a“scramble for colonies in Africa dueto rubber, ivory, and gold.
Source for European Industrial Raw Nationalism Missionary Materials Activity Revolution Markets for European Motives for Military Finished & Naval Goods Colonization Bases European Places to Racism Dump Unwanted/ Excess Popul. Humanitarian Soc. & Eco.Social Reasons OpportunitiesDarwinism “White Man’s Burden”