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Research Guide: English 209 - Congo & "Heart of Darkness"

Getting Started

Short Stories for Students: "Heart of Darkness" Intro
The first thing you may want to do is read the "Introduction" and "Historical Context" sections of the "Heart of Darkness" chapter in Short Stories for Students (available as reference book and e-book). This will give you an idea of the time period and what to look for when you search other databases.

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Searching Tips

  • During the 1890s, the Congo was owned by King Leopold II of Belgium. Belgium did not own the Congo - Leopold did - as an individual, he owned the whole country. The country was known as the Congo Independent State or the Congo Free State. Later, Belgium did take over the Congo from King Leopold - this is referred to as the Belgium Congo generally.
  • Good search terms: congo independent state, congo free state, king leopold and congo, etc.
  • Always try multiple searches - different terms bring up different results in each database.
  • Conrad's book talks about ivory, but much of the sources will talk about rubber (as the main export), with some mention of ivory. Even though it's a different product, the historical realities were the same - in how the people were treated, etc.
  • Warning: the French Congo is different - ignore search results that mention it.  Also the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the current country that exists today - also not what you're looking for; however, books about the history of the DRC may mention the colonial period with Leopold and Belgium.

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Find Books...

Recommended Books
Title Location Call Number
The Congo: From Leopold to Kabila Reserve (Central) DT 658. N96 2002
King Leopold's Ghost Reserve (Central) DT 655. H63 1999
**The Story of the Congo Free State: Social, Political, and Economic Aspects of the Belgian System of Government in Central Africa
by Henry Wack, originally published 1905, available online via Internet Library, Univ. of Toronto collection
Reserve (Central)
& Internet Library
DT 652. W2 1905
View E-Book
The Tragic State of the Congo
--See Chapter 1
eBook Collection View E-Book
Selling the Congo : A History of European Pro-Empire Propaganda and the Making of Belgian Imperialism
--Mostly about Belgian imperialism, but does mention the Congo Free State
eBook Collection View E-Book
The History of the Congo
--See Chapter 4: Leopoldian Congo, 1885-1908
eBook Collection View E-Book
Joseph Congrad's Heart of Darkness: A Casebook eBook Collection View E-Book
African Exploits : The Diaries of William Stairs, 1887-1892 eBrary View E-Book
**The Crime of the Congo by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, originally published 1909 Google books View E- Book
**A Journal of a Tour in the Congo Free State by Marcus Dorman, originally published 1905 Project Gutenberg View E-Book
**Civilisation in Congoland: A Story of International Wrong-Doing by Henry Richard Fox Bourne, originally published 1903 Google Books View E-Book
**With Captain Stairs to Katanga by Joseph Autustus Moloney, originally published 1893 Google Books View E-Book
**King Leopold's Soliloquy by Mark Twain, originally published 1905
NOTE: this source can be a bit confusing - this is written by Mark Twain (an American writer, satirist, humorist). He is writing this pamphlet from the point of view of King Leopold II of Belgium. In this work, the king defends his actions in the Congo; however, it would seem that Twain's purpose is to expose some of the atrocities going on in the name of money.
Google Books View E-Book

**These academic resources were published so long ago, that they are out of copyright (and in the public domain), and therefore, are freely available on the internet. These links take you away from the SCC library's webpage to various internet archives and ebook collections.

Library Catalog
Find materials that are in the physical library.
Primarily good for finding books.
Books are usually about broader topics than articles, so you may need to broaden your search terms (ex- instead of "texting" perhaps search for "cell phone use").
Books are not going to be as up-to-date as articles because they take longer to publish.
See which library the book is located in, and what section.
Be sure to write down the book's call number!
eBook Collection (EBSCO)
Search the full-text (every word on every page) of over 120,000 books - completely electronic
E-Book Hint:: On the search page, check the box "Also search within the full text of the articles" to search within the text of the book to get more results.
Note you can only print 10 pages at a time - only print out the important pages
For citation information: click on "Detailed Record" in the left sidebar when viewing an e-book. You will need this information later on!
Ebook Central (Proquest)
Search entire books available online.
Find More Books...

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Find Articles (Databases)...

Start at the library's home page (

Off Campus Access: username is your Web ID (ex: absmith), and the password is your portal password.

Gale World History in ContextDiscus Logo
Full-text articles from leading scholarly publications, primary sources, images, maps and charts.
Search 'congo independent state' - look under "References" on the left for good introductory essays.
Search 'congo free state' - look under "References" on the left for good introductory essays.
Search 'leopold and congo' - see if you get different results
Open each article and scan it to see if it's useful - even the articles on the colonization of Africa might mention this instance of colonization.
Warning: Watch out for the French Congo (that's not the same thing).
Warning: Also, remember that the 'Belgium Congo' probably refers to a later time period - after the Heart of Darkness was written. It probably refers to when Belgium owned the Congo rather than King Leopold himself.
EBSCO History List PASCAL Logo
Search 3 databases at once! History Reference Center, Military & Gov't Collection, European Views of the Americas: 1493-1750. Covers U.S. and World History.
Search: "congo free state" or "congo independent state"
See All Databases

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Last updated: 04/27/18