- Casement, Sir Roger
- (1864–1916)Before his 1916 execution for treason and the British government’s subsequent effort to smear his reputation by releasing diaries that graphically detailed his alleged homosexuality, Casement was an Irish-born British diplomat and colonial reformer best known for reporting the horrors of forced labor in the Belgian Congo and the Putumayo region of Peru. After several visits to Africa while serving as a ship’s purser, in 1884 Casement became an employee of Leopold II ’ s International African Association where he worked as a railroad surveyor and construction foreman. Casement left the Congo in 1892 to join the British diplomatic corps. After a brief tour of duty in Nigeria, he was promoted rapidly and served as British Consul in Mozambique from 1895 to1898, Angola from 1898 to 1900, and the Congo Free State from 1901 to 1904.Shortly after his return to the Congo, he began warning the British government about the mistreatment of natives and the damaging effects of forced labor in rubber cultivation. Under pressure from humanitarian groups, in 1903 the British government charged Casement with undertaking an official inquiry. His Congo report, published the next year, provoked an international scandal with its detailed evidence of atrocities and was instrumental in forcing Leopold to relinquish his private colony in the Congo Free State to the Belgian government. Following the appearance of his Congo report, Casement was transferred to Brazil where he served in a variety of Consular posts from 1906–1911. In 1910, he was ordered by the Foreign Office to investigate charges of atrocities against the inhabitants of the rubber producing Putumayo region of neighboring Peru. Casement’s detailed report substantiated the worst of the allegations, earned him a knighthood in 1911, and eventually led Parliament to dissolve the London-based Peruvian Amazon Company two years later.In 1913, ill health forced Casement to retire from diplomatic service. On his return to Ireland he became actively involved in the campaign for Irish Home Rule, helping to organize the paramilitary Irish National Volunteers and traveling to the United States to seek funds for the separatist movement. After the outbreak of World War I, he traveled to Germany in a failed effort to gain diplomatic recognition and possible military assistance for an independent Ireland. Germany’s refusal to provide military assistance for the planned Easter rising prompted Casement to return to Ireland in April 1916 in an effort to stop the revolt. He was captured shortly after landing, taken to London for trial, convicted of treason, and executed August 3, 1916.See also <
>.FURTHER READING:Campbell, John. “Give a Dog a Bad Name.” History Today 34 (September 1984): 14–19;Daly, Mary E., ed. Roger Casement in Irish and World History. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 2005;McCormack, W. J. Roger Casement in Death, or, Haunting the Free State. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2002;Mitchell, Angus. Casement. London: Haus Publishing, 2003;Reid, Benjamin Lawrence. The Lives of Roger Casement. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1976;Sawyer, Roger. Casement, the Flawed Hero. London: Routledge, 1984.KENNETH J. OROSZ
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.