Exploring Africa

Introduction | Island 1 | Island 2 | Island 3 | Island 4 | Island 5 | References

Island 5: Central and East Africa, and the Legacy of Exploration

David Livingstone, 1813-1873 
Missionary travels and researches in South Africa; including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda, on the west coast; thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi, to the eastern ocean. . . . With portrait; maps by Arrowsmith; and numerous illustrations 
London: John Murray, 1857. 
Heraldic bookplate of William Edwards.

The most famous of the Victorian African explorers, David Livingstone, a shopkeeper's son from Blantyre, Scotland, had qualified in medicine from Glasgow University and sailed for southern Africa with the London Missionary Society in 1840. Over the next years, he steadily pushed his base northward into central Africa, until in 1851 he reached the Zambesi. Sending his wife and family home, he set out on an extraordinary series of travels through what was still Arab slave-trading territory, until he eventually marched his porters down the Zambesi valley towards the east coast, and in 1855 discovered the Falls of Shongwe, illustrated here; these he admiringly described as seeming to "exceed in size the falls of the Clyde at Stonebyres," and renamed in honor of the British queen.

Sir Samuel White Baker, 1821-1893 
The Albert N'yanza, great basin of the Nile, and explorations of the Nile sources 
2 vols. London: Macmillan, 1867.

Aside from Livingstone himself, the mid-nineteenth century European exploration of East and Central Africa involved three significant English explorers: Sir Richard Burton (1821-1890), the translator of the unexpurgated Arabian Nights and discoverer of Lake Tanganyika; John Hanning Speke (1827-1864), originally Burton's second-in-command, discoverer of Lake Victoria Nyanza and of the landlocked kingdom of Uganda; and Samuel Baker, whose book is displayed here. Baker, a west-country landowner traveling independently with his wife, set out on Speke's suggestion to find another great lake to the west, which he would name after Queen Victoria's recently-deceased prince consort, Lake Albert Nyanza, and which completed geographic knowledge of the sources of the White Nile. Sir Ronald Murchison, for whom Baker named the falls illustrated here, was president of the Royal Geographical Society.

Henry Morton Stanley, 1841-1904 
How I found Livingstone: travels, adventures and discoveries in Central Africa: including an account of four months' residence with Dr. Livingstone. . . . With maps and illustrations after drawings by the author 
New York: Scribner, Armstrong & Co.; Boston, G. M. Smith & Co., 1872.

After the Missionary Travels that made him famous, Dr. Livingstone became more and more an explorer, rather than a missionary. His eagerness to end the Central African (Arab) slave-trade led to a government-sponsored expedition (1858-63), that took him up the Zambesi, to discover Lake Nyasa, but he found European companions frustrating. For his third great journey, starting in 1866, he traveled only with Africans, and simply disappeared from European view. In March 1871, the Welsh-born New York journalist H. M. Stanley set out from Zanzibar on a lavishly-funded but initially secret trip to find the famous explorer, which he did by the shores of Lake Tanganyika, that November. His report of their meeting, and the words he used to greet him, were headline news around the world, and Stanley immediately became the popular idea of an African explorer.

Portrait of David Livingstone and Livingstone's last journal entry before his death in 1873 
reproduced from The last journals of David Livingstone, in Central Africa, from 1865 to his death / continued by a narrative of his last moments and sufferings obtained from his faithful servants Chuma and Susi 
2 vols. London : J. Murray, 1880. 
Signature of Francis Carbutt, 1890, and Charles Buffet.

Though he had been ill and without supplies when Stanley found him, Livingstone expected his researches in the Nile basin to take a further two years, and declined to return with his rescuer. Just over a year later, in April 1872, still pushing onwards, he was dead from dysentery. Remarkably, his African servants embalmed the body and carried it, with his journals and other effects, through hostile territory for a journey of over a thousand miles, down to the British consul at the coast. It took them nine months. He was buried as a national hero in Westminster Abbey, early in 1874. 
Gift of Dr. D. Strother Pope.

Henry Morton Stanley, 1841-1904 
Through the dark continent: or, The sources of the Nile around the great lakes of equatorial Africa and down the Livingstone river to the Atlantic ocean. . . . With ten maps and one hundred and fifty woodcuts 
2 vols. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1878.

By the time of this book's publication, the previously-blank areas on the African map were beginning to be filled in, and Stanley's subtitle seems to promise little new to his readers, yet the memorable title and pictorial cover of the volume indicate the dominant role that Stanley's image of Africa would come to exercise in late 19th century Europe and America.

Stanley and Africa : also, the travels, adventures, and discoveries of Captain John H. Speke, Captain Richard F. Burton, Captain James W. Grant, Sir Samuel and Lady Baker, and other distinguished explorers 
London and New York : Walter Scott, 1890.

This volume, and its glamorous colored frontispiece, is a good example of how the explorers' original accounts were summarized and repackaged for a popular readership. 
Gift of Dr. D. Strother Pope.

Henry Morton Stanley, 1841-1904 
In darkest Africa; or, The quest, rescue, and retreat of Emin, governor of Equatoria. . . . With two steel engravings, and one hundred and fifty illus. and maps.
2 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1890.

After the success of his quest for Livingstone, Stanley became a professional explorer, commanding large-scale armed expeditions throughout Central and East Africa on behalf of the increasingly-interventionist colonial powers. Twice he journeyed through the Congo basin, to clear the way for King Leopold's ambitions of a Belgian sphere of influence in the heart of Africa. This book recounts his fourth major expedition, which helped to ensure British influence over Uganda. He returned to Britain and was elected to Parliament in the mid-1890s, but fame was not the same as honor; on his death in 1904, he was refused burial in Westminster Abbey with Livingstone. 
Gift of Dr. D. Strother Pope.

Henry Stanley, 1841-1904 
The Congo and the founding of its free state; a story of work and exploration. . . . With over one hundred full-page and smaller illustrations, two large maps, and several smaller ones 
2 vols. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1885.

The end of the period covered by this exhibition saw the European powers, great and small, engaged in the "Scramble for Africa," ruthless competition in the decade following the Berlin Congress (1884-85) to map out the continent into exclusive areas of colonial influence. Stanley had been involved from the start with Belgian commercial ambitions over the Congo basin. This fascinating book describes the company that administered the so-called Free State and eulogizes the rather miscellaneous group of adventurers, of several nationalities, who made careers as the company's agents. In 1908, international outrage at the company's exploitation of forced labor led to a formal Belgian takeover of the colony.

Cameron Chesterfield Alleyne 
Gold Coast at a Glance 
New York: Hunt, 1931.

This book attests to on-going interest in Africa by African-Americans. The U.S.-based African Methodist Episcopal Church, Zion, had conducted mission work in the Gold Coast Colony (now Ghana) since 1880, and in 1924 Alleyne had become the first A.M.E. Zion bishop to be resident there. "In prophetic voice, the writer pictures an enightened and Christianized Africa taking her place in the sun beside the other great peoples of the world" (preface).

Chinua Achebe, b. 1920 
Things fall apart 
London: Heinemann, 1959.

The first modern African novel to achieve a lasting international reputation, Achebe's tragic story of the immediate pre-colonial period among the Igbo of eastern Nigeria provides a deliberate counterpoint to then-conventional European accounts of the coming of colonialism, and Achebe's concluding image, of the colonial administrator efficiently drafting his official report on another culture's tragedy, contrasts ironically with Conrad's Mr. Kurtz.


Introduction | Island 1 | Island 2 | Island 3 | Island 4 | Island 5 | References

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