Death toll Congo Free State

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Death toll Congo Free State

Post by Politician01 » 31 Dec 2020 16:10

Recently I came across the Congo Free State, where it is claimed that some 10 Million people died between 1885 - 1908, roughly half of the population. However the first census was conducted in the 1920´s and counted some 6,5 Million people.How is it possible to estimate:

- The size of the population in 1885 without any kind of census?
- To conclude that half of the population died, when one doesnt know how large the population was in the first place?

On top of that there were only a few thousand Europeans in the colony, which is 4x larger than France and 2x as large as Texas. Are these numbers a realiable estimate or blown out of proportions?

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Re: Death toll Congo Free State

Post by AiBosq » 17 May 2021 16:21

New here, so not sure I'm allowed to link videos.. but there is no way of knowing. iirc, most of those people that died likely died from sleeping sickness, other diseases, tribal warfare, etc.

Here is a somewhat decent video on it:

I think even the Wikipedia page will go into the causes of mortality a little bit but it's been a while since I've read it.

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Re: Death toll Congo Free State

Post by Pods » 18 May 2021 03:43

The European population was too small to cause something like millions of deaths.

Source: La demographie du Congo sous la colonization belge

It certainly seems that someone has lost their minds with the numbers. Most likely, since the pre-colonization population is not known exactly, the population of the pre-colonization Congo has been greatly overvalued.

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Re: Death toll Congo Free State

Post by Loïc » 18 May 2021 13:14

I know that the new religion in the world is that the number of Europeans are the main to not say the only cause to explain the death and torments of the others on the earth in the History but this biaised point of view would be totally eclipsed that in all the past colonizations (as well the History of slavery) on the Americas Asia and Africa there were mainly and basically a great number of indigenous auxiliaries, take a look about the number of civilian and military European personnel in many colonies you will have surprises

the only military colonial presence was not the Belgian Army, not even being a Belgian colony before 1908, or exclusively white-european mercenaries killers as depicted by a recent ridiculous politically-correct Tarzan movie by Hollywood (2016) but the Public Force of the Congo headed with only few European Foreigners and Belgian cadres and mainly AFRICAN soldiers, not only Congolese
the 1st august 1894 such Force counted 289 European officers and NCO's (3%) for 10 118 Africans (97%) heavily in cause for the bad treatments to Congolese populations, represented ten times more that all the European in the Congo the same year and reaching ~16 000 men c.1907


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Re: Death toll Congo Free State

Post by Sid Guttridge » 18 May 2021 17:58

Hi politican01,

Two points.

I think you are right and any figure offered for Congo would be at best under informed guesswork because we have no data to go on for pre-1885 populations. However, we do know that the Congo was the private property of the Belgian crown during this period and that its rule was particularly brutal because it fell outside any formal governmental control.

The second thing to bear in mind is that this is clouded by the advent of the cattle disease rinderpest, which was accidentally introduced to Africa by the Italian Army in Eritrea in the mid 1880s and had spread the length and breadth of the sub-Saharan continent by 1897. It killed around 90% of cattle and very high proportions of related game as well. This caused mass deaths of people through starvation. For example, it is estimated that about a third of the Masai of Kenya, who were very heavily dependent on cattle, may have died during the rinderpest pandemic. It was in the wake of rinderpest that European nations were able to take over Africa against limited resistance in the 1880s and 1890s.

It is possible that half the population (whatever that might have been) of Congo died during this period, but also possible that a majority of these deaths were not directly attributable to the Congo Free State's actions.



P.S. I see there is a new article just out on the rinderpest pandemic and its impact on colonial expansion in British Africa: "The African Rinderpest Panzootic, 1888–1897" by Thaddeus Sunseri

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