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James McCarthy

Scottish explorer, naturalist, surgeon, and philologist who opened up the Niger region to European trade and influence, was born in Kirkwall, Scotland, the eldest son of a Royal Navy captain, John Baikie. He was educated for a time at Kirkwall Grammar School in Orkney, but mainly privately, in company with his cousins. He gained a medical degree from Edinburgh University, where he also developed his interest in natural history. In 1848, together with Robert Heddie, he wrote the first part of a published study of the natural history of Orkney, Historia naturalis Orcadensis. In the same year he joined the Royal Navy as an assistant surgeon, serving on no less than five different ships in the Mediterranean before being appointed in the same capacity to Haslar Hospital, Portsmouth, from 1851 to 1854. It was from here in 1854 that through the patronage of the influential Sir Roderick ...

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M. W. Daly

British adventurer, explorer, and administrator, was born in London to Samuel Baker, a businessman, and his wife. Educated in England and Germany, and a civil engineer by training, he played a notable role in the history of the Upper Nile in the 1860s. His varied and peripatetic life as a planter, big-game hunter, writer, and controversialist may be studied in his extensive writings and the enormous literature on European travel in Africa.

His work in Africa began in 1861–1865 with explorations in the eastern Sudan, up the White Nile, (where he met James Augustus Grant and John Hanning Speke), and beyond to the Great Lakes. Credit for discovery of the source of the Nile has gone to Grant and Speke; Baker, famously accompanied by his second wife, Florence, explored and named Lake Albert Nyanza. For these adventures, embellished in several books, Baker was much acclaimed, and in 1869 as ...

Article

French explorer and administrator, was born on 26 January 1852 in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, to the aristocratic family of Ascanio Savorgnan de Brazza and Giacinta Simonetti de Brazza. Although he was born and raised in Italy, he volunteered to join the French navy and became an officer in 1869 and served in Algeria. In 1874, he proposed to the French Minister of the Navy an expedition to travel up the Ogooué River, the longest waterway in Gabon, to see if it eventually reached the Congo River. Although French officials had established a small coastal enclave on the northern Gabonese coast in 1843, the limited budget and personnel of the colony had restricted exploration of the Gabonese interior.

Brazza assembled a collection of several dozen Frenchmen and Senegalese soldiers for this mission His ability to combine intimidation with diplomacy proved very useful as he struggled to convince Adouma Fang ...

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Jeremy Rich

explorer, the son of Colonel Joseph Burton and Martha Beckwith Burton was born on 19 March 1821 in Torquay, Devon, England. As a military officer in the British Army, Joseph Burton traveled regularly, and his son Richard grew up in France and different Italian states. He showed early in life a tremendous gift for learning languages, and he eventually mastered Arabic to the point he regularly passed for an Arab or Persian or an Indian Muslim. Burton was admitted to Oxford University in 1840, but his wild behavior eventually led to his dismissal in 1842. His taste for adventure led him to join the British colonial army in India, and he first visited Africa en route from England via the Cape of Good Hope to Mumbai (Bombay). From 1842 until 1849, Burton mastered Arabic, Farsi, and Hindustani as he served as a British intelligence officer.

Burton ...

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Ari Nave

Sir Richard Burton spoke twenty-five languages and multiple dialects, including Greek, Latin, English, French, Italian, Marathi, Punjab, Arabic, and Hindi. During his travels he observed an enormous range of cultural practices, which he documented in forty-three manuscripts. He also wrote two books of poetry and four volumes of folklore.

Born in Torquay, England, Burton was raised by his English parents primarily in France. He briefly attended Trinity College, Oxford, but was expelled in 1842 for insubordination. He then joined the Bombay army, and served in India (in present-day Pakistan) until 1850. Working as an intelligence officer, Burton learned to impersonate Muslim merchants. His reputation was called into question and his military career cut short, however, when a rival officer spread word that Burton had been investigating homosexual bathhouses in Karachi, failing to divulge that Burton had done so under orders from a senior officer.

After returning to France and ...

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Jeremy Rich

French traveler and travel writer who explored West Africa, was born in 1799 in Mauzé-sur-le-Mignon in the Deux-Sèvres region of France. His family was extremely poor. Caillié’s father had been banished to work as a prisoner rowing on government boats before he was born. His mother died very young. According to his later account of his travels in West Africa, Caillié had dreamed of reaching the fabled trade center of Timbuktu on the banks of the Niger River since he was a child. Whether or not this actually was the case, Caillié did manage to reach the Senegalese town of Saint Louis in 1815 He stayed there for several months and tried to join an English expedition up the Gambia River This project did not work out He then spent some time working on the French Caribbean colony of Guadeloupe but soon returned to Senegal He came back to ...

Article

Elizabeth Heath

In 1825 the Paris Société de Géographie offered a prize of 10,000 francs to the first person to visit the legendary city of Tombouctou and return with a description of it. With this challenge they made official an undeclared competition among European Explorers that had already claimed the lives of more than twenty men. Since 1788, explorers had been trying to reach the Sahelian market town, rumored to be the richest in Africa but also one of the most heavily guarded. Only one European, a Scottish explorer named Major Alexander Gordon Laing, had yet entered the fabled city, but he was murdered only days after leaving. However, in 1827 explorer René-Auguste Caillié, born in Mauzé, France, embarked on a journey to Tombouctou that would at last win the prize.

Inspired by the adventures of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719 Caillié had already made two voyages to ...

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Jamie Bruce-Lockhart

British Royal Navy commander, who played a significant role in the opening of relations between Europe and the interior of west Africa in the 1820s through his participation in two expeditions sponsored by the British government to investigate countries of the central Sudan (Arabic, bilad as-Sudan land of the blacks and the final course of the River Niger He made important diplomatic contacts with leading states of the region and while he ultimately failed to clarify where the river entered the sea his accounts shed light on regions of Africa then unknown to Western science He was the first to chart every degree of latitude from the Mediterranean to the Guinea coast His extensive reports introduced Europeans to the character and riches of long established civilizations of the African interior and his investigations reliant as in part they were upon indigenous sources and aid paved the way for ...

Article

Born in Annan, Scotland, Hugh Clapperton went to sea at the age of thirteen and later became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. In 1821 the British Colonial Office sent him, along with explorers Walter Oudney and Dixon Denham, on the Bornu Mission to trace the true course of the Niger River in Africa. They crossed the Sahara from Tripoli, in present-day Libya, and became the first Europeans to see Lake Chad, which Denham set off to explore on his own. From there, Clapperton and Oudney headed west into present-day Nigeria toward Kano, but Oudney died along the way and Clapperton reached it alone. He then traveled on to Sokoto but, detained by local rulers, was unable to find a guide to take him the 240 km (150 mi) to the Niger. He returned briefly to England before coming back to West Africa in 1825 With British ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

explorer, was born on La Réunion, a French colonial possession in the Indian Ocean, on 31 July 1831. His father was French; his mother was a mixed-race woman from Réunion. Du Chaillu later tried to hide his mixed-race ancestry and claimed he had been born in Paris. Du Chaillu's father was forced to flee Réunion to evade legal proceedings before his son's birth. However, Du Chaillu did manage to reach France, where he spent part of his adolescence training in Paris to become a taxidermist. His father found work for a French trading firm in the Gabon Estuary in 1846, which had been colonized by the French navy between 1839 and 1844. This fledgling colonial coastal enclave had attracted only a few French merchants, but was known as a source of ivory and camwood. With the coming of the Revolution of 1848 to France ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

explorer and Baptist missionary pioneer in central Africa, was born in Sancreed, Cornwall, England, on 21 August 1849. His father moved the family to Birmingham in 1852. Although his father was an Anglican, Grenfell became interested in Baptist teachings and attended a Baptist church in his youth. When Grenfell reached the age of fifteen, he joined the great revival of 1859 that swept through much of England and was baptized. Like so many other British and North American missionaries in the nineteenth century, the books of David Livingstone captivated Grenfell with stories of adventure. Before seriously considering a missionary career, Grenfell worked as an apprentice at a hardware factory. This practical training later was extremely valuable in central Africa as Grenfell traveled on his steamer up and down the Congo River. In 1873 he decided to leave behind his work and previous religious training by enrolling at ...

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James McCarthy

Scottish explorer and geographer of Africa, was born in Edinburgh in 1844. Alexander Keith Johnston was the son of the eminent geographer and cartographer of the same name, who had established the highly respected engraving and mapmaking firm of W. & A. K. Johnston with his brother William. Although the young Keith was educated at prestigious schools in the Scottish capital, he was also tutored carefully by his father, and learned those European languages in which significant geographical material was published. Like his father, Keith’s interest extended well beyond conventional cartography, and he made important contributions to oceanography, hydrology, and global climatic influences. Both were influential figures in the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), itself the most important national institution in the promotion of worldwide discovery and the development of the nineteenth-century British Empire, not least in Africa.

After a period as superintendent of drawing and engraving at the prestigious ...

Article

Hassoum Ceesay

fierce Gambian patriot whose resistance to British colonialism is celebrated in legend and song first appears in the historical record in the 1830s when he was king of the precolonial Gambian kingdom of Niani Niani situated in the middle reaches of the River Gambia was where Kamara inflicted the first major defeat against the British colonial forces on Gambian soil at a battle near his capital at Dungaseen He then became the undisputed anticolonial ruler in Gambia The defeat angered and embarrassed the British so much that their governor in Bathurst George Rendall was recalled and later dismissed Kemintang went to war to protect his trade and political rights against British aspirations A minor dispute involving the seizure of river cutters small sailboats that carry groundnuts proved to be the spark that lit a powder keg of rivalries among local rulers like Kemintang and British merchants and their agents over ...

Article

Willie Henderson

also known as Khama the Great and Khama the Good, kgosi (king), warrior, lawmaker, diplomat, and consolidator of BaNgwato power in northeastern Botswana, was born Khama Boikanyo Sekgoma in Mashu around 1835. His father was Sekgoma I, who had been nominated as chief by his father Kgari; Khama was born during Sekoma’s second tenure as chief. Khama’s early conversion to Christianity in 1859 marked his life in significant ways. He set himself against paganism, polygamy, and other traditional practices, including circumcision, and vehemently opposed consumption of alcohol. In the 1860s Khama became the leader of pro-missionary groups within the BaNgwato. In 1862 he married a young convert to Christianity, Elizabeta Gobitsamang, the daughter of a warrior, Tshukudu, who had conspired to overthrow Sekgoma I. In accordance with Tswana custom, she became known as Mma-Besi, named for her firstborn child.

The invasion of Ndebele 1863 sent by Mizilikazi Khumalo under ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

explorer and geographer, was born on 14 September 1848 in Leipzig, then in the German kingdom of Saxony. He was the son of a shoemaker. After graduating from secondary school at the Nicolaigymnasium, he went to the University of Leipzig. In 1870 he earned a degree in geography from this institution. From 1870 to 1873 he taught at a private school in Vienna, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire became his permanent home for the rest of his life. After having joined the Austro-Hungarian civil service and prepared maps on some of its eastern and southern territories for two years, Lenz decided to become an African explorer in 1874 The Deutschen Gesellschaft zur Erforschung Äquatorial Afrikas DAG a German organization dedicated to exploration in central Africa recruited Lenz to visit the French colony of Gabon There Lenz was to travel up the Ogooué River to see if it connected with ...

Article

Orombo  

J. C. Winter

Mangi (king) of Keny in the southern Rombo region of Kilimanjaro (in present-day Tanzania) from c. 1800 to 1837, also known as Horombo and Rombo, was famous for having initiated a socio-military revolution and religious reformation in Chagga that brought it in line with the western world at the time, thereby ending Mamba’s rule over eastern Chagga. He unified by conquest all of eastern Chagga under his rule, then met with Mangi Rengua of Machame at the Nanga River between Mochi (Old Moshi) and Kiruwa in 1823, and they agreed that each should rule unmolested over his own half of Chagga.

When Orombo became the Mangi of Keny his realm was tiny and insignificant as for the past one hundred years Mamba succeeding Ugweno had dominated eastern Chagga Each mangidom consisted of localized patrilineal clans having noble warrior and cattle keeping lineages whose male and female youths passed ...

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Leland Conley Barrows

Franco-Senegalese habitant from Gorée, explorer of the Mauritanian Sahara, was born on Gorée Island in Senegal to a poor family. Although orphaned very young, he obtained a good education that included accounting. When choosing a career, he vacillated, like many of his habitant peers from Gorée and Saint-Louis, between work as a gum trader or a modest position in the colonial bureaucracy of Senegal. Taking employment in 1838 as a clerk in the French naval administration in Saint-Louis, he resigned a few months later to become a gum trading agent for François-Michel Pellegrin, the former mayor of Saint-Louis, who was one of the wealthiest habitants of Senegal. Not being very successful, Panet reentered the naval administration in 1845, first as a clerk and then as an accountant.

Between 1838 and 1854 Panet seems to have been won over to certain new ideas about the commercial future of Senegal ...

Article

Charles Withers

Scottish physician, botanist, and explorer, was the first European to return safely having observed the west–east course of the River Niger. His significance stems from this geographical accomplishment, from the much reprinted book of his first expedition, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa, first published in 1799, and from his “heroic” failure and death in 1806, in circumstances that are still unclear, on a further Niger expedition. His second posthumously published work, published in 1815, and drawn from Park’s surviving papers and reports, began the process of Park’s biographical commemoration.

Park was born near Selkirk in Scotland on or about 11 September 1771, the seventh of thirteen children. Park was educated at home, at Selkirk Grammar School, and, from 1789, in the University of Edinburgh, where he studied medicine. In November of 1792 Park was introduced to Sir Joseph Banks by his brother ...

Article

Said M. Mohamed

poet, warrior, and political leader, was born in the early nineteenth century at Sasabane, now in the disputed Ogaden region of Ethiopia, the son of a powerful traditional Ugaas (Sultan) of the Ogaden clan. As a boy, besides tending camels, Raage joined a peripatetic Islamic school (xer) and gave evidence of his literary talent by sending his father coded messages in Somali called “hal xidhaale.”

Sometimes called the father of Somali poetry, Raage is said to have been the first poet who composed the opening lines hooyaalayeey hooyalaayey hooyalaaye hooyeey so typical of Somali classical poetry His poetry won the admiration of every Somali and quickly spread throughout Somali speaking territories He composed a wide range of poems poetry of love and lamentation poetry about power and poems of advice The rich imagery sophisticated alliteration and artful use of Somali words were hallmarks of his poems By ...

Article

Rafai  

Richard A. Bradshaw and Juan Fandos-Rius

Bandia paramount chief of a Zande kingdom that straddled the Chinko River in what is now southeastern Central African Republic (CAR). Rafai was born c. 1855, the eighth son of Bayangi, who, according to oral tradition, was the son of Sangou, the son of Tossi, the son of Kassanga, the son of Ngubenge, the son of Kube. The Bandia, an Ngbandi clan from the southern bank of the Ubangi River region west of the Azande, spread northeast across Azande territory in the late eighteenth century. By c. 1800, the Bandia had become the rulers of a number of states on the forest margins north of the Mbomu River. The Bandia ancestors of Rafai came to rule an Azande population on both sides of the Chinko River.

Rafai was one of the youngest sons of Bayangi and so at birth he appeared to have little chance of ever leading ...