Colonialism in the Congo began with King Leopold II during 1884 at the Berlin Conference. Leopold managed to take control of the region by convincing other European nations that he wished to acquire the Congo for humanitarian purposes. The other nations agreed under the conditions that the land would not be under Belgian, but specifically under the control of Leopold. In 1885, Leopold took control and named the Congo and changed it’s name to the Congo Free State. However, his rule ended in 1908 when light was shined on the harsh exploitation and mistreatment of the congolese people Belgian was pressured into taking government control. In 1908, the Congo Free State changed it’s name to the Belgian Congo and became an official colony of Belgium.
Unlike Leopold whose true interest rested only in extracting resources the Congo had to offer, the colony under the Belgium was more interested in helping the congolese. Though the Belgian Congo was still very involved in mining and agriculture, it also had the goal of civilizing the Congo. The Belgian Congo worked to improve healthcare and education for it’s people, building schools and providing medical care through missions. In 1960 the Belgian Congo ended, and became independent.
Great social change was brought by the colonization of the Congo, starting with economic change. Under Belgian rule, private companies were free to monopolize the economic market. Mining became a large empire, Belgian Congo’s main export changing from rubber to copper, and though the violent treatment of the congolese under Belgium had decreased, forcing men into the workforce was not uncommon.
The culture of the Congo became more westernized with the building of new schools, dominated by Roman Catholic teachings, the congolese had the ability to become educated in reading and writing, and even were able to attend University for the first time ever in 1954. No longer did the people of the Congo lack western education. Health care also became widely available, and the number of deaths brought by once common diseases began to decrease ultimately leading to longer lifespans for the congolese.
There was also a large demographic social change following the Belgian colonization of the Congo. More immigrants from Belgium and other European nations began to come to the Congo. This caused an ideological change of white supremacy. Though there were no set rules in place, segregation became the norm in Belgian Congo. Curfews and job limitations also became set for the black population.
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