In September 1910, the human rights activist and anti-imperialist Roger Casement arrived in the Amazon to investigate reports of widespread human rights abuses in the vast forests stretching along the Putumayo river. There, the Peruvian entrepreneur Julio César Arana ran an area the size of Belgium as his own private fiefdom; his Britishregistered company operated a systematic programme of torture, exploitation and murder. Fresh from documenting the scarcely imaginable atrocities perpetrated by King Leopold in the Congo, Casement was confronted with an all too recognisable scenario. He uncovered an appalling catalogue of abuse: nearly 30,000 Indians had died to produce four thousand tonnes of rubber.
From the Peruvian rainforests to the City of London, Jordan Goodman recounts a crime against humanity that history has almost forgotten, but whose exposure in 1912 sent shockwaves around the world. Drawing on a wealth of original research, The Devil and Mr Casement is a story of colonial exploitation and corporate greed with enormous contemporary political resonance.
Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese independence leader and first democratically elected Prime Minister, was executed 55 years ago on 17th January, 1961. He had been beated and tortured in a culmination of two assassination plots by the Belgian government and the CIA, ordered directly by President Dwight Eisenhower to 'eliminate' the charismatic leader, with the cooperation of British intelligence and Katangan authorities.
Just months before his deposition in a coup, Lumumba had delivered a powerful speech declaring the independence of the Republic of Congo and speaking eloquently about the struggle against racism and colonization, "an indispensable struggle to put an end to the humiliating slavery which was imposed on us by force."
Another five star review for Jordan Goodman's The Devil and Mr Casement: One Man's Struggle for Human Rights in South America's Heart of Darkness, this time from the Independent:
The Devil and Mr Casement is a fine achievement, offering both a rigorous account of atrocities in the Amazon and a balanced portrait of Casement himself. The Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa's forthcoming
Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature last week has written a novel based on the fascinating and controversial life of Roger Casement, to be published in Spanish on 2nd November.
Casement's story is staggering. Born in Dublin to a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother, he went on to become British consul in the Congo, where he was commissioned by the British government to examine forced labour in the Congo Free State. His report on the atrocities he witnessed contributed to Leopold II of Belgium's relinquishment of his colonial fiefdom.