Monday, June 25, 2012

For September: The Devil and Mr. Casement

For September, we have selected Jordan Goodman's book about Roger Casement's anti-slavery work in South America, The Devil and Mr. Casement: One Man's Battle for Human Rights in South America's Heart of Darkness:
In September 1910, the activist Roger Casement arrived in the Amazon jungle on a mission for the British government: to investigate reports of widespread human-rights abuses in the forests along the Putumayo River. Accusations against the Peruvian rubber baron Julio C├ęsar Arana had been making their way back to London, and the rumors were on everybody’s lips: Arana was enslaving, torturing, and murdering the local Indians. Arana’s Peruvian Amazon Company, with its headquarters in London’s financial heart, was responsible. Casement was outraged by what he uncovered: nearly 30,000 Indians had died to produce 4,000 tons of rubber. When Casement’s 700-page report of the violence was published in London in 1912, it set off reverberations throughout the world. People were appalled that murderous acts were being carried out under the cloak of British respectability. The Peruvian Amazon Company was forced into liquidation, and its board of directors was publicly shamed. From the Amazonian rain forests to the streets of London and Washington, D.C., Jordan Goodman recounts a tragedy whose exposure in 1912 drew back the curtain on exploitation and the wholesale abuse of human rights. Drawing on a wealth of original research, The Devil and Mr. Casement is a haunting story of modern capitalism with enormous contemporary political resonance.
(If you show up for the discussion having read the just-released novel The Dream of the Celt by Mario Vargas Llosa, also about Roger Casement, you won't be turned away!)
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