Leopold II of Belgium was honored with Great Britain's most prestigious title, a member of the Order of the Garter, in 1916. Here, Leopold poses with his honorary sash.

Photograph courtesy Wikimedia
  • On February 5, 1885, Belgian King Leopold II established the Congo Free State as his personal possession. Rather than control the Congo as a colony, as other European powers did throughout Africa, Leopold privately owned the region. Leopold financed development projects with money loaned to him from the Belgian government.
     
    The king’s stated goal was to bring civilization to the people of the Congo, an enormous region in Central Africa. Leopold’s reign over the Congo Free State, however, has become infamous for its brutality. Estimates vary, but about half the Congolese population died from punishment and malnutrition. Many more suffered from disease and torture
     
    As the realities and suffering within the Congo Free State became more widely known, people became upset. Demonstrations and protests demanded that Leopold end human rights abuses in the Congo Free State. In 1908, international pressure forced the king to turn the Congo Free State over to the country of Belgium. The newly named “Belgian Congo” remained a colony until the Democratic Republic of Congo gained its independence in 1960.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    brutal Adjective

    extreme, harsh, or cruel.

    civilization Noun

    complex way of life that developed as humans began to develop urban settlements.

    Encyclopedic Entry: civilization
    colony Noun

    people and land separated by distance or culture from the government that controls them.

    development Noun

    construction or preparation of land for housing, industry, or agriculture.

    disease Noun

    a harmful condition of a body part or organ.

    enormous Adjective

    very large.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    finance Verb

    to fund or provide money to an organization or individual, usually for a specific purpose.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    human rights Noun

    basic freedoms belonging to every individual, including the rights to social and political expression, spirituality, and opportunity.

    independence Noun

    state or situation of being free.

    infamous Adjective

    having a very bad reputation.

    malnutrition Noun

    lack of a balanced diet.

    protest noun, verb

    demonstration against a policy or action.

    region Noun

    any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

    Encyclopedic Entry: region
    reign Verb

    to rule as a monarch.

    torture Noun

    inflicting pain to force a victim to provide information.