Heart of Darkness Historical Context

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European Presence in Africa

In 1890, Joseph Conrad secured employment in the Congo as the captain of a river steamboat; this was also the approximate year in which the main action of Heart of Darkness takes place. Illness forced Conrad's return home after only six months in Africa, but that was long enough for intense impressions to have been formed in the novelist's mind. Today, the river at the center of Heart of Darkness is called the Zaire and the country is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but at the time Conrad wrote of them the country was the Belgian Congo and the river the Congo.

European explorers first discovered the Congo River in 1482 and maintained a presence on it for hundreds of years thereafter, never traveling more than two hundred miles upstream It was not until 1877, after the English-born American explorer Henry Morton Stanley had completed a...

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This section contains 790 words
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Heart of Darkness from Novels for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.