David Hill, researcher and campaigner for Survival International, argues for the contemporary relevance of Jordan Goodman’s The Devil and Mr Casement in his article for the Guardian, ‘Why the Amazon rubber ‘boom’ can still be heard’:
One hundred years ago the first whiff of a scandal broke in the House of Commons concerning a British
company operating in the depths of the Amazon rainforest. A Foreign Office investigation led by Roger Casement, later to become an Irish revolutionary and eventually executed for treason, revealed that 30,000 indigenous people had died gathering rubber for the company.
Casement’s investigation is the subject of a book, just published, entitled ‘The Devil and Mr Casement’ by historian Jordan Goodman. Casement’s conclusions were truly shocking. In order to meet a sudden growth in international demand for rubber, known as the ‘Rubber Boom’, thousands of indigenous people were enslaved, routinely starved, flogged, put in chains and stocks, raped, and murdered.
Recently I met a descendant of some of the survivors of the ‘Boom’. Her name: Fany Kuiru, a Witoto woman, from what is now Colombia but in the early 20th century was Peru. Fany had travelled all the way from the remote Amazon to Europe to publicise what happened one hundred years ago. The Witoto suffered more than anyone: Casement’s estimate was that 20,000, out of a total of 30,000, died in just a few years.
“It’s not history for us. It’s not history for me,” she said, making it clear that the legacy of the ‘Boom’ is something the Witoto still have to deal with day in, day out.
When I told Fany about the publication of Jordan Goodman’s book, a different kind of ‘monument’ to the one she may have imagined, her reaction was an emotional one.
Read the rest of the article here.