Relying on journalistic accounts from the period and the excellent use of archival materials, his book paints a vivid picture of colonialism in central Africa: the vast and sparsely populated terrain with virtually no communications infrastructure, the petty racism of the handful of colonial officials on the ground, and the bureaucratic delusions and highflying patriotic rhetoric of a poorly informed government back in Paris.
Author J. P. Daughton, an academic of European history and its colonialism, has not only provided the historical background of and told the story behind this railroad but has used it as a contextual backdrop for an overall lesson in the tragedy of France’s imperial incursion into Equatorial Africa. It was never a pretty picture no matter where French or European footsteps tread on the continent.
J. P. Daughton’s...history of the Congo-Océan railroad details the depredations wrought to achieve the engineering success. Fans of tales of other tropical railroad constructions such as the famous bridge on the River Kwai will find this African version to be similarly compelling and perhaps even more grisly.