Modern history


MY THANKS go to staff members at the Royal Geographical Society in London, Anti-Slavery International in London, the Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale in Tervuren, Belgium, the Musée Royal de l'Armée et d'Histoire Militaire in Brussels, Svenska Missionsforbundet in Stockholm, the American Baptist Historical Society in Rochester, New York, the Sanford Museum in Sanford, Florida, and the Department of History of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Montreat, North Carolina, all of whom kindly responded to my requests for information, photographs, or other materials. Thanks also to Enid Schildkrout at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, to the archivists at Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia, who allowed me to look at William Sheppard's papers, to Ebba Segerberg for translations from the Swedish, and to David Raymond and Fritz Stern for some good bibliographic suggestions.

Writing this book helped me understand the essential role of libraries in preserving the records of history that powerful interests want forgotten or that people have chosen to ignore. I felt grateful to be able to borrow a book, even though—as I found in one case—I was the first person who had checked it out since 1937. Or—and this happened to me twice—to check out a library book from decades ago and find the pages still uncut. My thanks to the many helpful staff members at the various places I did research: the libraries at Northwestern University, Yale University, and Bates College; the New York Public Library; the library of Union Theological Seminary in New York; the Hoover and Green libraries at Stanford University, and, above all, the Doe, Moffitt, and Bancroft libraries of the University of California at Berkeley, where I did most of my work. Berkeley's rich range of materials from a century ago is eloquent testimony to what existed before small-minded politicians and tax-cutting fanatics began slashing the budgets of American public and state university libraries.

Although she was in the midst of finishing a remarkable book of her own, my wife, Arlie, talked, lived, and breathed this project with me every step of the way. By the time the manuscript was ready for her insightful reading, she knew the characters in the Congo story almost as if they were close friends of ours. I was lucky to have many real-life friends who also read the manuscript and gave me helpful comments, often drawing on their experience as writers, journalists, or historians: Ayi Kwei Armah, Harriet Barlow, Mary Felstiner, Laurie Flynn, David Hochschild, Patricia Labalme, Paul Solman, Allen Wheelis, Francis Wilson, and Blaikie, Monty, and Robert F. Worth. For critical readings and other support, I am also grateful to my agents, Denise Shannon and Georges Borchardt, and to my former editor at Houghton Mifflin, Dawn Seferian.

Almost every page of this book benefited immeasurably from intensive editorial consulting from Tom Engelhardt. Among American writers who care about their craft, Tom's name is a well-kept secret. There are few people alive for whom the act of critically reading, untangling and polishing a sentence, a paragraph, an entire book, is so much an act of the highest craftsmanship. If there were Oscars for editing, Tom would have won his long ago.

As a newcomer to this tragic patch of history, I was helped in my explorations by several people who know far more about it than I. Daniel Vangroenweghe read the manuscript and shared some documents with me. And I owe a special debt of gratitude to the two greatest scholars of this period, the anthropologist Jan Vansina and the historian Jules Marchal. Both generously responded to numerous calls and letters asking for information, and both read the manuscript with painstaking care, Marchal in two successive drafts, saving me from innumerable errors. They are not responsible for any mistakes that crept in by accident in my subsequent rewriting, or for the few points where my interpretation may differ from that of one or the other of them. I cannot thank them enough.

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