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Travels in West Africa by Mary Kingsley

Travels in West Africa (1897)

by Mary Kingsley

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Kingsley is possibly unique in her perspective as a single white woman traveling alone in Africa in the late 19th century. While her views on race and culture are more narrow than ours, I think she conveys considerably more respect for the Africans she works with and considerably less Victorian judgmentalism than most of her contemporaries. Her style is witty and often self-deprecating. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
What Mary Kingsley did was pretty incredible.... in 1893, she decided -- skirts and all-- to travel to West Africa to explore, collect fish and learn more about the religion of native people. Her account "Travels in West Africa" follows her adventures as she traipses through the jungle, paddles down rivers in canoes, and hikes up a mountain in the Cameroons in a storm. Her spirit of adventure and pluck is incredibly admirable and pulls together a wide ranging story, as she travels across the country and battles mosquitoes and leeches, is stalked by wild animals and meets with tribes who are shocked to see a white woman emerge from the forest. Sometimes the book gets a little bogged down in detail (...it could use a bit of an edit...) but otherwise it's an amazing tale of the adventures of an amazing woman. ( )
  amerynth | Jan 1, 2012 |
This book is a great source of the culture of the native Africans in the Congo during the late 1800s. The book is exciting as it describes many mini-xpecitions into the unknown where white people were not known by many natives. The main tribes encountered were cannabals and difficult to move through safely. The forests and hills and swamps are well described. The author has considerable humor, often traveling without any other white person but with a band of black men of mixed tribes.

She shows a lot of courage and curiosity. She taught herself to handle both large and small canoes, learned and enjoyed piloting both a cargo ship downriver, and a sailing ship offshore. She negotiated a peaceful solution to several altercations between cannabals she was travelling with and those of other canabalistic tribes they encountered.

Her explorations were in what is now Gabon and were in the lowland portion, except for one episode climbing a Cameroon mountain.

This is a good adventure book and it enlightens the reader of the way fo life and the values of the native people back then. ( )
2 vote billsearth | Dec 24, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kingsley, Maryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Huxley, ElspethEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my brother C.G. Kingsley, this book is dedicated.
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It was in 1893 that, for the first time in my life, I found myself in possession of five or six months which were not heavily forestalled, and feeling like a boy with a new half-crown I lay about in my mind, as Mr. Bunyan would say, as to what to do with them.
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This book is in public domain in the USA and the e-book is available free online.  

Publishers description: Upon her sudden freedom from family obligations, a sheltered Victorian spinster traded her stifling middle-class existence for an incredible expedition in the Congo. Mary Kingsley traversed uncharted regions of West Africa alone, on foot, collecting specimens of local fauna and trading with natives--a remarkable feat in any era, but particularly for a woman of the 1890s. After hacking her way through jungles, being fired upon by hostile tribesmen and attacked by wild animals, Kingsley emerged with no complaint more serious than a pair of tired feet. She undertook her exploits in the traditional garb of her era but lived as a native, and she found herself drawn into the life and problems of the region: its diversity of customs and beliefs; its geography and natural history; its trade network; the impact of missionaries; and many other issues of the day. Her account of her experiences, suffused with an infectious good humor, was published to immediate success in 1897 and remains a compelling tale of adventure.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0792266382, Paperback)

Unique perspective: Until 1893, Mary Kingsley led a secluded life in Victorian England. At age 30 however, Kingsley defied convention and arranged a trip to west Africa to collect botanical samples for a book left unfinished by her father. Such a daring adventure was unheard of for women at the time. Kingsley traveled through western and equatorial Africa and became the first European to enter parts of Gabon. Her story--as an explorer and as a woman--offers an enduring tale of adventure. Adventure writer and historian Tony Brandt sets Kingsley's Africa against the history of other European explorations of the continent and details her contributions not only to literature, but science as she collected more than 400 samples--some now extinct--of plants and insects. Handsome editions, competitively priced: Gathered together for the first time in inexpensive, accessible editions, Adventure Press Classics offer readers the opportunity to build a comprehensive library of the most adrenaline-packed tales of adventure ever written. She was the first Englishwoman and the "third Englishman," as she put it, to climb the great peak of the Cameroons. She traveled with native guides but otherwise without a man along into some of West Africa's most dangerous jungles, up its most dangerous rivers. She fought off crocodiles with a paddle, hit a leopard over the head with a pot, fell into an animal trap lined at the bottom with sharpened sticks, waded through swamps in water chin deep. Then she wrote this book, which describes her adventures in detail, as well as her discoveries as a naturalist and her observations of the Africans and their customs. She writes a brisk engaging prose and she is clearly dauntless. The book was no. 18 on the Adventure list of the 100 best adventure books. It's a wonderful read.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:49 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Following the death of her parents in 1892, Mary Kingsley set out to finish her father's anthropological studies in West Africa. She went deep into the jungles where she fought off crocodile and leopard alike. Published in 1897, Travels in West Africa is an account of her second journey to the continent, written with reserves of good humor and a profound sympathy for her subject.… (more)

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