In just three decades at the end of the 19th century, the heart of Africa was utterly transformed. Virtually closed to outsiders for centuries, by the early 1900s the rainforest of the Congo River basin was one of the most brutally exploited places on earth. In “Land of Tears,” Robert Harms reconstructs the chaotic process by which this happened. Beginning in the 1870s, traders, explorers, and empire builders from Arabia, Europe, and America moved rapidly into the region, where they pioneered a deadly trade in ivory and rubber for Western markets and in enslaved labor for the Indian Ocean rim. Imperial conquest followed close behind.
Ranging from remote African villages to European diplomatic meetings to Connecticut piano-key factories, “Land of Tears” reveals how equatorial Africa became enmeshed within our global world.