Leopold II and his colony
In the late 19th century, Leopold II fulfilled his dream: he obtained a colony for Belgium. He then set himself the task of convincing the Belgian people of Congo’s potential...
Leopold II and the colony’s origin
The Museum’s history begins with King Leopold II. He was convinced that his small country, which industrialized rapidly between 1865 and 1880, required a colony to support its industrial expansion.
Leopold II employed Henry Morton Stanley, who had found Livingstone in 1872 and sailed the entire course of the Congo River in 1874-1877. The UK showed no interest in Stanley, but Leopold II recruited him to further explore Central Africa on his behalf. Stanley’s service to the king helped lead to the recognition of the Congo Free State at the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference
A Colonial Palace showcase
To promote Belgium’s work of ‘development and civilization’ in Congo, and the latter’s economic potential, Leopold II hoped to build some form of museum or ‘showcase’.
The original plan consisted of adding a colonial wing to the Natural History Museum and to the 50th Anniversary Park, both in Brussels. When these plans were not carried out quickly enough, the king opted for an exhibition at his royal estate in Tervuren, an area he had known very well as a young prince and Duke of Brabant.
> read more: From Congo Museum to RMCA