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American Imperialist

Cruelty and Consequence in the Scramble for Africa

This biography of “African explorer” Richard Dorsey Mohun, written by one of his descendants, reveals how American greed and state power helped shape the new imperial order in Africa.
Richard Dorsey Mohun spent his career circulating among the eastern United States, the cities and courts of Europe, and the African continent, as he served the US State Department at some points and King Leopold of Belgium at others. A freelance imperialist, he implemented the schemes of American investors and the Congo Free State alike. Without men like him, Africa’s history might have unfolded very differently. How did an ordinary son of a Washington bookseller become the agent of American corporate greed and European imperial ambition? Why did he choose to act in ways that ranged from thoughtless and amoral to criminal and unforgivable?
With unblinking clarity and precision, historian Arwen P. Mohun interrogates the life and actions of her great-grandfather in American Imperialist. She seeks not to excuse the man known as Dorsey but to understand how individual ambition and imperial lust fueled each other, to catastrophic ends. Ultimately, she offers a nuanced portrait of how her great-grandfather’s pursuit of career success and financial security for his family came at a tragic cost to countless Africans.

328 pages | 17 halftones | 6 x 9

Biography and Letters

History: American History, Discoveries and Exploration

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1: African Connections
2: Africa in Mind
3: The Journey Up-Country
4: Arab Encounters
5: The Messy Business of Hero Making
6: A Hero’s Welcome
7: The Consular Life
8: Infrastructures of Empire
9: Facts on the Ground
10: The Truth about the Congo
11: Manifest Destiny
After Africa and Conclusion
List of Abbreviations

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