In the Rubber Coils Source Analysis
By Alexander Scott
In the late 19th century to early 20th century Congo had a massive rubber boom. King Leopold II ruled most of Congo and wanted to take advantage. He demanded his soldiers to go each and every village and take all the wives hostage. The only way the husbands could get them back was to travel into the rainforest to collect the wild rubber vines. If they did not bring a certain amount back they would certainly fall victim to the infamous chicotte (right), a whip made of dried hippopotamus skin. Many would have to walk for days to find enough rubber to please the soldiers. The Army officials got bonuses based on the amount of rubber collected in their region which made them even more ruthless. The toll on Congo was huge, around 50% of Congo's population died. Men from exhaustion, the not infrequent punishments and the lack of food and water. The women from rape and starvation, but the main killer was disease. Men, women and children couldn't survive the lung and intestinal diseases along with tuberculosis, smallpox and the worst of the all sleeping sickness.
The political cartoon 'In the Rubber Coils' was created by Linley Sambourne and was published in Punch magazine on the 28th of November 1906. It is a primary source because it was produced at the time of the regime, but it isn't the most reliable source because the creator has produced it from what the newspapers and radios have reported.
From the source we can learn about how powerful King Leopold II and other kings or countries can be during a time of imperialism, in this case it is Congo. We also learn what the outside world thought of the imperialism of Congo at the time. The source does not give us the amount of information an essay or another body of writing could because a political cartoon is very open to any given persons interpretation of the piece.
King Leopold II, represented by the snake in the cartoon, shows the reader how powerful the imperialists were and how they treated the native people with no respect or empathy. Another symbol is the snake clasping the man. It symbolises the helplessness of the Congolese people and that King Leopold II, his soldiers and commanders squeezed every use out of the natives for their own gain. The woman running away with the baby shows how frightened they were and how they could do nothing to stop it.
Because Linley Sambourne did not experience the feeling of being part of the imperialism in Congo, his cartoon is from what the media told people in England during the event. As we all know the media is usually not the most trustworthy source to look at, so we all need to keep in kind that the piece is from an outsiders viewpoint and the media's viewpoint of imperialism in Congo. We also need to be mindful that the cartoon is not completely realistic, at the time huge snakes with crowns did not go round to the villages and attack people, it is just represents something. But, the symbols in 'In the Rubber Coils' and what was happening at the time of print are fairly similar.
Below is a video of my personal response and below that is a helpful website on the positives and negatives of imperialism in Congo (QR Code).
Amrita; Colonization to Exploitation – for materialistic profit; Blogspot; updated 19/04/2009; website 29/04/2013; http://amritahumanitiesyellow.blogspot.com.au/2009/04/colonization-to-exploitation.html
infoplease; Congo, Democratic Republic of; infoplease; copyright 2012; website; 29/04/2013; http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/world/congo-democratic-republic-the-history.html
Shunya; The Tragedy of the Congo; Shunya; updated July 2008; website; 29/04/2013; http://www.shunya.net/Text/Blog/VP/TheTragedyOfCongo.htm