Historical Context in Heart of Darkness
European Colonialism: The historical context of Heart of Darkness is firmly rooted in imperialism and European conquests across the globe. Though almost purely an economic operation, European colonialism was often justified through a "civilizing" myth. Colonizers claimed that they sought to "civilize" native populations of foreign countries by spreading Christian doctrine and European lifestyle. This reasoning is also built upon the notion that white Europe represented the epitome of civilization, whereas indigenous populations were primitive and ignorant. In many cases, this so-called benevolent colonialism merely served as a thinly veiled justification for the exploitation of foreign resources.
The Belgian Congo colony, where Heart of Darkness is set, was one of the most brutal and exploitative colonial regimes in history. While the original intention of the 1899 text was to reveal and condemn the misconduct of Europe’s colonial project, modern readers will notice that the novel does not escape the racist ideology of its time period. Kurtz and Marlow promote the idea that white men are “civilized” and native populations are “savages.”
Historical Context Examples in Heart of Darkness:
"and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to. . .”..." See in text (Chapter 1)