‘Masterful’ The Economist
The Congo-OcÃ©an railroad stands as one of the deadliest construction projects in history. It was completed in 1934, when Equatorial Africa was a French colony. African workers were conscripted at gunpoint, separated from their families and subjected to hellish conditions as they hacked their way through dense tropical foliage; excavated by hand thousands of tonnes of earth in order to lay down track; blasted their way through rock to construct tunnels; or risked their lives building bridges over otherwise impassable rivers. In the process, they suffered disease, malnutrition and rampant physical abuse, likely resulting in at least 20,000 deaths.
Drawing on exhaustive research in French and Congolese archives, a chilling documentary record and eye-opening photographic evidence, J. P. Daughton tells the epic story of the Congo-OcÃ©an railroad, and in doing so reveals the human costs and contradictions of modern empire.