Home Political science British Humanitarianism and the Congo Reform Movement, 1896-1913
The study of the Congo reform movement has, at its core, the question dogging all humanitarian efforts: how can distant strangers ameliorate suffering despite the forces arrayed against their efforts ? The question contains a plethora of issues: metaphysical concerns of morality and justice, practical elements of strategy and tactics, mundane problems concerning money and interpersonal conflict, and how to overcome obstacles of all kinds. The present work takes as its subject the reform movement in its many forms, bringing new information to light in some areas while using a fresh look at the sources to evaluate and synthesize earlier interpretations. The movement’s expanse prevents an all-encompassing account of its every action, but this study’s object has been to pull its many factors together. Britain receives the most attention as the movement’s locus of origin and its primary source of momentum, but the study is not limited to that country. The perspective is, by its nature, European; African suffering, accommodation, and resistance deserve book-length attention, but this examination cannot do them justice while focusing on the reform agitation—replicating its subject’s Western and indeed hegemonic nature. The reform movement’s motives, methods, and effectiveness dominate this story, giving us insight into a campaign to make a better world that has implications for our understanding of that world and our own.
I owe much to the assistance of the archives mentioned in the Bibliography, especially Lucy McCann at the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House and Sue Donnelly and the staff at the British Library of Political and Economic Science. Thanks particularly to Patrick McDevitt of the University of Buffalo for his advice and correctives, as well as to readers William Roger Louis, Sasha David Pack, and Claire Schen. Paula Tavrow at UCLA ignited my interest in the reform movement. It was a great pleasure to receive help and encouragement from the scholars I met along the way, such as Robert Burroughs, Martin Ewans, Aidan Forth, Cherry Gertzel, Kevin Grant, Adam Hochschild, Oli Jacobsen, and Sharon Sliwinski. John Bremner Osborne generously shared his Foreign Office notes, introduced me to US archival information, and proved a good host. Richard Harris, Rebecca Seeley Harris, and Judy Pollard Smith joined me in my research into Alice Harris. Finally, I am grateful for the gracious friendship and insightful conversations of Morel biographer Donald Mitchell and his wife Susanna. Donald sharpened my thinking on the effectiveness question and saved me from errors; any remaining are my responsibility alone.
The support of my children, parents, sisters, and friends has made the process better than bearable. Most of all, many thanks to my wife, Patricia Christian, for her patience, encouragement, and affection through my self-absorption and travels.
Portions of Chapter 1 appeared in the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 11, no. 1 (spring 2010). © 2010 Johns Hopkins University.
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