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Africa Explored: Europeans in the Dark Continent, 1769-1889 (edition 2002)

by Christopher Hibbert

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692180,945 (3.67)5
Member:jonmore
Title:Africa Explored: Europeans in the Dark Continent, 1769-1889
Authors:Christopher Hibbert
Info:Cooper Square Press (2002), Paperback, 344 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:africana/exploration

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Africa Explored: Europeans in the Dark Continent, 1769-1889 by Christopher Hibbert

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This book covers the exploration of Africa by European explorers, covering over 100 years. I have mixed feelings about the book, so I'll try to explain why.

First, I liked the format. It was clear, concise writing, with a few unfamiliar words, but a glossary in the back. And there were maps, which was really important, as I tried to follow the explorers as they traveled.

And the subject itself was ambitious. Hibbert tried to be fair, portraying both the native Africans and the Europeans with warts and all. He made an effort not to 'take sides' but to show people as they really were. I certainly learned a lot. This was a historical era that I knew virtually nothing about.

But oh, was this book depressing! It wasn't the fault of the writer. It was just the feeling I came away with. It seemed that in Africa, the strongest, most aggressive, most bloodthirsty group was the one that came out on top. Those who were peaceful were always exploited by someone else. This was true no matter what the ethnic group. Some of the worst excesses described were committed by Africans. One example was the slavetrader who snatched a baby from its mother and dashed its brains out, so the woman would walk faster.

I guess I had an idea that the Europeans were basically the ones exploiting the Africans, but as I read, I discovered that was not necessarily so. Even before Europeans outposts were established, some African tribes and Arabs engaged in the slave trade. One European who arrived early in the 18th century described a man as a slavetrader and a very good person. To me, in the 21st century, I just don't see how anyone could describe a person engaged in such a trade as a 'good person.'

But the Europeans were certainly not blameless. Richard Burton, in particular, struck me as a really nasty sort of person. He loved describing in lurid detail the sexual customs of the tribes, and tried to experience it as much first hand. And he delighted in the most cruel, barbaric practices. He wrote a friend with similar tastes complaining that no one had been tortured yet in his honor, but he had hopes that the next village would be better in that respect.

All in all, I would only recommend this to people interested in the history of Africa or European exploration. As entertainment, it was pretty grim. ( )
  cmbohn | Apr 4, 2009 |
Explorers>Africa>Biography/Discoveries in geography/Africa>Discovery and exploration
  Budzul | Jun 1, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140056920, Paperback)

Many outstanding men—James Bruce, Richard Francis Burton, David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, and others—won lasting fame from their African journeys. Africa Explored collects their amazing tales of treks into the unknown. These tales of Europeans in Africa before the wave of colonialism mix exotic sights and startling customs with sympathetic meetings of Africa's people and scenes of sublime beauty. Africa Explored relates Mungo Park's being robbed and left for dead in the West African desert, then saved by repeated acts of kindness; Burton and Speke's search for the legendary Mountains of the Moon that fed the Nile; Alexander Laing's fatal voyage to Timbuktu; Livingston's journeys up the Zambezi River; German missionary Johannes Rebmann's astonishment at beholding the snow-capped peak of Kilimanjaro; and other incredible encounters with strange animals, the slave trade, crippling diseases, and desert nomads.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:04 -0400)

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