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- 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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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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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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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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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