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Number: 3621
Continent: Africa
Region: Central
Place Names: Congo
Year of Origin: 1898
Language: French
Publish Origin: Brussels
Units: centimeters
Size Class.: Large
Scale: 1 : 2,000,000
Color Type: Full Color
Images of this map are not yet available.
Cartographer: Jean Baptiste Antoine Joseph Du Fief
Engraver: Jean Malvaux
Other Contributors:
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Notes: [PENDING Source Dasa Pahor] A stellar example of a very large work (approx. 4 by 4? feet!), the finest general map of the Congo Free State, the corporate colony ruled by Belgium?s King Leopold II through a regime of brutality immortalized in Joseph Conrad?s ?Heart of Darkness?, with late breaking information on the development of the colony and the routes of numerous explorers, prepared from privileged official sources by Jean Du Fief, the most esteemed Belgian geographer of the era. Colour photolithograph, on 4 sheets each mounted upon original linen and dissected into 12 sections (Very Good, map clean and bright with attractive colours, linen backing a touch spotted but not affecting the map), each sheet: 62 x 67.5 cm (24.5 x 26.5 inches); if sheets joined would from a map approximately 123 x 134 cm (48.5 x 53 inches). This excellent, very large map is the finest general cartographic representation of the Congo Free State (today?s Democratic Republic of Congo), the massive corporate colony that occupied the heart of Africa, which was the personal property of King Leopold II of Belgium. Rapidly developed from 1885, by the time that the present map was issued, the Free State was the world?s largest supplier of rubber, then one of the main elements of the modern industrial age. However, the colony?s productivity came at an atrocious human toll, for Leopold II?s agents presided over what may have been the most brutal regime anywhere in the world at the time, creating a climate of terror perfectly captured by Joseph Conrad?s Heart of Darkness (1899), published the year after the present map was issued. While many maps of the Congo Free State had been published during the first decade of the colony?s existence, these works tended to be either done to too small a scale to show seminal details or based on sources too dated to accurately capture its state of development (indeed new outposts, missions and roads constantly appeared). Enter Jean Du Fief, the founding Secretary-General of the Soci??Royale Belge de G?graphie (established in 1876), an institution dedicated both the academic inquiry as well as supporting Belgium?s overseas ambitions. Du Fief was close to King Leopold II and his colonial apparatus and had privileged access to information on the Congo as soon as it arrived in Belgium. In 1895, Du Fief produced the first edition of the present map, which was the first ultra-large format cartographic work depicting innumerable details of the colony?s development predicated upon late breaking information derived for the best official sources. The present third edition of the map, updated to 1898, embraces the entire Congo Free State to a scale of 1: 2,000,000, and features a vast wealth of information not available on any other single map. The topography of the Congo Free State is showcased with great precision, including all the great rivers and lakes of the Congo Basin, with the territories of the colony bathed in a brilliant yellow hue. Of great interest, the domains of all the country?s indigenous tribes are labelled, while archipelagos of newly established European outposts dot the interior, connected by incipient networks of infrastructure, notably the nearly complete line of the Matadi?Leopoldville Railway. The ?L?ende? below the title notes the symbols used throughout to identify International Boundaries (black crossed lines), Internal (District) Boundaries (red intermittent lines); Altitudes in metres; Christian Missions; Government Posts (red flags); Trading Posts (circles with crosses); Explorers? Routes (red lines, with names and dates); Railways under construction (track lines); swamps; as well as various abbreviations used for local terms. The map is augmented by large insets, in the upper left quadrant, featuring plans of the Free State?s major towns, or areas of settlement, aspects rarely seen on such general maps. They give valuable insight into the nature of fast-growing frontier colonial settlements as Africa entered the industrial age. Included are plans of the seaport of Banana, the key river ports of Boma and Matadi, as well as the area around Leopoldville and Stanley Pool (today home to the modern metropolis of Kinshasa). In the lower left quadrant of the map is a large inset, ?Carte du Bas-Congo?, depicting all the Lower Congo, the most populated, developed and accessible part of the colony. The quality of the colour photolithography employed in the printing the map is very high, having been produced by the firm of Jean Malvaux, described as ?The most dynamic and best performing Belgian studio in the area of photomechanical printing processes at the beginning of the 20th century?. Founded in 1884 in Brussels, by Jean Malvaux, the firm was highly regarded and successful, eventually opening branches in Paris, Lille and London, employing over 100 people. Du Fief?s large map of the Congo Free State was published in five editions, each of which was updated from official information newly arrived in from the Congo, to which the author had privileged access. The first edition was issued in 1895; the second, apparently undated, appeared sometime in 1896 or 1897; the present third edition was published in April 1898; the fourth appeared in 1900; while the final edition was issued in 1905. The present 1898 state of the map was listed in a contemporary specialist journal, Bibliotheca geographica, as being available for sale at the price of 3 Belgian Francs. Du Fief?s large map, in all its states, was in its day considered critically useful to administrators, commercial investors, engineers and ethnographers. Today the map is considered a seminal historical document of the Congo Free State and is much cited by academics. It is worth noting that Du Fief also published a different map of the Congo Free State, but of nearly the same title, done to a much smaller scale of 1:4,000,000, featuring much less information. This map and the present work should not be confused. Jean Du Fief and the Soci??Royale Belge de G?graphie Jean Baptiste Antoine Joseph Du Fief (1829 ? 1908) was the leading Belgian geographer of his era, and his role in analysing the Congo was of the highest and most enduring importance. In 1876, he was instrumental in founding the Soci??Royale Belge de G?graphie, a learned society that possessed a duel mandate of sponsoring academic projects and well as facilitating King Leopold II?s soaring international ambitions. Du Fief became the Society?s founding secretary-general, where he oversaw an ambitious programme of conferences, publishing (he was personally the lead author of at least 60 articles, books and maps), as well as sponsoring exploring expedition from Africa to the Arctic. Du Fief, through his close association with explorers such as Henry Morton Stanley, played a key role in educating King Leopold II and the Belgian elite on the Congo, and its potential for ?civilization?. He was often the first academic permitted to read and analyse official reports and maps which arrived in Belgium straight from the Congo, and this privileged access often ensured that his work was of a peerless nature. Notably, he created a fine map of Central Africa, Carte de l?Etat Ind?endant du Congo et de l?Afrique centrale (1890) and a work on pioneering Belgian advances deep into the Congo?s interior, Les expéditions belges au Katanga (1893). However, the present large map of the Congo is perhaps his most impressive work. The Congo Free State: Belgium Enters the Heart of Darkness Belgium was a new nation (its independence recognized in 1839) and a small country (30,688 km2 / 11,849 sq mi), yet these realities seemed irrelevant to its ruler, King Leopold II (reigned 1865 - 1909) during the era of the ?Scramble for Africa? when European powers sought to gain chunks of the last inhabitable continent not to have been completely overrun by colonialism. After failing in his bid to convince Spain to sell him the Philippines, Leopold II set his sights upon the Congo, a vast land of inestimably great agrarian and mineral wealth, but also one of the least developed and accessible parts of Africa. With the assistance of Jean Du Fief and the newly formed Soci??Royale Belge de G?graphie, Leopold II convened the Brussels Geographic Conference in 1876, whereby many of the world?s greatest explorers and academics were invited to discuss overseas schemes, and particularly those that would burnish Belgium?s prestige and wealth. Coming out of the what was a highly successful event, the king hired the famed explorer Henry Morton Stanley (of ?Dr. Livingstone, I presume?? fame) to be his personal agent in the Congo, to reconnoitre the region and to assess its potential for humanitarian ?civilizing? and economic projects. Extraordinarily, Leopold II orchestrated a campaign to convince the other European powers to award control of the Congo to him personally (as opposed to the Belgian government), to govern as corporate colony. Leopold II, riding on Stanley?s gravitas, promised to ?civilize? the Congolese people, bringing Christianity, modernity as well as higher living standards. He would develop the economy and make the country a free trade and investment zone by which all European powers could profit. At the Berlin Conference of 1885, whereby the European powers divided most of Africa between themselves, the Big Powers were content to accede to Leopold II?s request. They were pleased that the Belgian king was willing to undertake the awesome responsibility of civilizing and developing such a vast land, while opening the county to all; while the fact that Belgium was a small power ensured that Leopold II?s regime was unthreatening (i.e. the British preferred that Belgium held the heart of Africa, as opposed to France or Germany). Leopold II founded the Congo Free State (?at ind?endant du Congo / Kongo-Vrijstaat), a corporate entity wholly owned by the king, that at 2,344,000 km2 (905,000 sq mi), was 76-times the size of Belgium! The name for the colony was ironic, as it was an absolute terror state, whereby millions of Congolese were enslaved to create and operate roads, railways, plantations and mines. In only a short time, a vast system of industrial and agrarian production was developed, connected by an ever-growing network of infrastructure (as evident on the present maps). While the Free State soon became the world?s largest producer of rubber and ivory, the colonial police service, the Force Publique, meted out sadistic punishments upon the people. The breakdown in the traditional tribal systems, the introduction of foreign diseases and the reallocation of resources to support European objectives resulted in the death of almost half of the Congolese population of 30 million. While the Free State?s economic production was impressive, the terror that gripped the country horrified many of even the most hardened European imperialists, in a dreadful realization best captured by Joseph Conrad novella, Heart of Darkness (1899) (Conrad had worked steamboat captain in the Congo some year earlier). Innumerable reports of atrocities conveyed Christian mercenaries, plus the Casement Report (1904), a shocking expos?on the brutality of the Leopold II?s regime penned by an esteemed British-Irish diplomat, finally convinced the Big Powers that the Free State was too severe and unethical to be tolerated - even by their standards! In 1908, the Belgian government reluctantly agreed to pay off Leopold II and his associates and the take control of the Congo as a crown colony. While Belgian civil servants lessened the abuses, the Belgian Congo was still perhaps the harshest colony in the world (slavery remained legal until 1923)! The country would not attain its independence until 1960, and since then has followed a rocky road haunted by ?Leopold?s Ghost? (note an excellent book: Adam Hochschild, King Leopold?s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (New York, 1998). References: [Re: the present 1898 ed.:] British Library: Cartographic Items Maps 65795.(18.) / OCLC: 556949620; Bibliotheca geographica, vol. 7 (1898), p. 332. Cf. Jan M. Vansina, Paths in the Rainforests: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa (Madison, Wisconsin, 1990), p. 307.
Last updated: Oct 14, 2019