Stanley: Africa's Greatest Explorer

Stanley Africa s Greatest Explorer is Books He was John Rowlands a Welsh workhouse bastard rejected by his mother and father lowest of the low poorest of the poor And yet when he got mar

Stanley: Africa's Greatest Explorer is Books He was John Rowlands, a Welsh workhouse bastard, rejected by his mother and father, lowest of the low, poorest of the poor. And yet, when he got married – finally, at the age of 49 – it was in Westminster Abbey by a bishop in the presence of the prime minister Mr Gladstone and the painters Sir John Millais and Sir Frederick Leighton and a fragrant potpourri of dukes & peers of the realm.These days people have careers, but in them days, people could invent themselves completely. There were no rules. When he left the workhouse at age 17, he was unwanted by any relative and packed off to Liverpool and got work as a delivery boy. During one job he took provisions to an American ship and the captain took a liking to him, as they say, and offered him a job as cabin boy. And so in February 1859 he pitched up in New Orleans, and jumped ship. Scuffled around, got delivery jobs, picked himself a new name, ended up a storekeeper in Cypress Bend, near little Rock, Arkansas, which is where the American Civil War caught up with him in 1861, and he joined the 6th Arkansas Infantry on 26 July who were also known as the Dixie Grays. Captured (not killed, lucky for him, but he was a lucky bastard) at the Battle of Shiloh, and taken to Camp Douglas, near Chicago, where along with all the other prisoners, an offer was made, that they switch sides. This was standard in those days, I don’t think this is done anymore. So he enrolled in the Artillery Service of the Union. At this point he began to claim to be an American, because he’d had to swear allegiance to the American government. Got dysentery, left behind in a hospital in Harper’s Ferry on 22 June. Listed as a deserter on 31 August and never went back to his regiment.Walked to Sharpsburg, collapsed, a good Samaritan paid his train fair to Baltimore, and he shipped to Liverpool as a deckhand. Went to see his mother in Denbigh, she rejected him again as a worthless ne’er do well. Shipped back to New York, began clerking in Brooklyn. Decided to join the Army for a second time. 19 July 1864, enlisted for 3 years in the navy, assuming they wouldn’t find out about his army desertion. Got ship’s clerk. February 1865 at Portsmouth New Hampshire – deserted again. Hearing of the Colorado gold rush, sallied forth to St Louis and blagged his way into an occasional job with a newspaper, the Mississippi Democrat. You get the idea. Like a lot of people, he was a great improviser. He stumbled crazily from one notion to another and finally came upon his DESTINY.In 1868 there was a war which broke out between Great Britain and the Empire of Abyssinia, Ethiopia as was, because of a mislaid letter, which caused Emperor Theodore to take umbrage. Stanley had talked his way into the offices of the New York Herald, biggest American paper of the time, and, promising to pay his own expenses, got the job of war correspondent for this ridiculous enterprise, where the elephant British Army was plodding off to swat the Ethiopan gnat. In the event, the British lost 40 soldiers and hundreds of Ethiopians were killed (precise numbers as usual not available). The Emperor committed suicide. All this because of a mislaid letter. But the good news was that the Herald liked Stanley’s dispatches. So the next thing was that he got his Big Idea. Which was : to be the man who found Dr Livingstone, who had been lost in Darkest Africa ™.These white explorers had to think big. They had to travel with a party of around 250 people minimum. This was because they had to be a traveling bank (the currency was cloth, beads and wire) because they had to buy food all the time. So you needed many guys to carry all this stuff and other guys to be the protection. The guys had to carry the stuff because in Africa mostly you can’t use pack animals because of the tsetse tsetse fly which kills horses and donkeys. Also, there were no roads, only single tracks, and only sometimes. There was no satnav, no Google earth, no maps at all. Instead there were compasses and many unpleasant surprises including people who didn't want you to be there at all.Signing up for one of these expeditions was a poor career move. About 25 to 35% of them died. Next time a Victorian explorer comes around sweet-talking you just say no. So many of them died on these expeditions! Death by disease (dysentery, dengue, cholera, all sorts of fever); by drowning; by being speared by hostile natives, by snake. So this fake-American Welsh upstart found Dr Livingstone, and became a big celebrity & best-selling author, and then went back for Expedition No 2 which was to find the source of the Nile and figure out the other big river in the Congo called the Congo. They were so crazy for the source of the Nile in those days. I myself would not get up out of my Barcalounger to see the source of the Nile if it was found at the bottom of my garden, but it takes all sorts to make a world. On Expedition No 2 Stanley nearly died about 19 times, but he had the constitution of The Hulk even though he was petite. It was now he got the reputation of being a big racist bastard who liked to encourage the blacks by shooting them. He gave himself this reputation by bigging up various exploits in his newspaper dispatches, and naively not realizing that if you did shoot a few natives and flog a few others, you’d best not to mention it, like all the other explorers, who flogged and shot much more but discreetly didn’t mention it. Then King Leopold of Belgium decided Stanley was the very patsy he was looking for to make happen his dream of personally owning the Congo and creating the horror the horror ™ which Heart of Darkness and then Apocalypse Now were later based on. This King was thinking big. Stanley was hired to populate the Congo River with viable bases where white people could stay armed to the teeth and basically take over. So this was expedition No 3. Stanley’s heart was in the right place, strangely. He was of the opinion that the Congo needed to be tamed to kill off the slave trade, which was a flourishing enterprise throughout the whole area. In fact King Leopold was maybe the greatest con artist the world has seen, and also one of the greatest gamblers, because when he started his whole Congo thing, there was no obvious way to make money from it. No gold, no diamonds. However, in 1887 a Scottish vet had an idea to make his little son’s tricycle riding a more pleasant experience and fitted air filled rubber whatchamacallits round the wheels. In doing so he inventedPNEUMATIC TYRESHis name was John Boyd Dunlop and his invention sparked off the Great Victorian Bicycling Crazeand immediately made the Congo a fantastically valuable place because rubber trees grew there all over the place. So slavery wasn’t abolished in the Congo at all, it was made compulsory. Anyway, all that hadn’t happened yet when Stanley embarked on his last, most horrible expedition. It’s really hard to describe why he even went, it’s beyond our modern understanding. It was a rescue attempt. Some random guy called Emin Pasha… no, I haven’t the patience. It makes no sense. But anyway, guns & ammo had to be got to this guy, all of England was in a state of teeth gnashing angst until Emin Pasha had more guns & ammo to kill more native Sudanese people. There’s no logic.This last expedition was a total catastrophe – it was a big one, and started with 708 people , and went from one side of Africa to the other side in three years, and of the 708 only 210 survived. And yet it was considered a heroic triumph. This book gets into the grotesque twisted heart of white imperialism and it’s unflinching. But no one should be thinking that the Victorians had no qualms about any of this. From a contemporary review of one of Stanley's books :The mounting of an expedition with aims and methods which almost necessitated the cruelties and slaughters that were incident to it… it seems better to remain in armchairs and pass resolutions than wantonly to embark on perilous enterprises which can only be carried out by means that degrade EnglishmenThis story is amazing, a masterclass in tangled morality. Lives cannot be lived like this any more. Stanley preferred living with black people in Africa than the dimity drawing rooms of Bloomsbury yet he shot, flogged and hung black people, and was unembarrassed about it. He was not a bad man but through him many bad things happened. This is a great biography all about the inevitable evil and the evil inevitability of imperialism. The sorrow and the pity of it is breathtaking.. Henry Morton Stanley was a cruel imperialist a bad man of Africa Or so we think but as Tim Jeal brilliantly shows, the reality of Stanley s life is yet extraordinary Few people know of his dazzling trans Africa journey, a heart breaking epic of human endurance which solved virtually every one of the continent s remaining geographical puzzles With new documentaryHenry Morton Stanley was a cruel imperialist a bad man of Africa Or so we think but as Tim Jeal brilliantly shows, the reality of Stanley s life is yet extraordinary Few people know of his dazzling trans Africa journey, a heart breaking epic of human endurance which solved virtually every one of the continent s remaining geographical puzzles With new documentary evidence, Jeal explores the very nature of exploration and reappraises a reputation, in a way that is both moving and truly majestic.. The best Books Stanley: Africa's Greatest Explorer An exhilarating look at the explorer Stanley. He is indeed an individual who overcame adversity – he was born in poverty, abandoned to an orphanage and successfully re-invented himself in the U.S. (where he changed his name)! He then became the famous explorer we all know - think of the immortal expression – ‘Dr. Livingstone I presume’.As the author points out Stanley was constantly trying to prove himself. In the U.S. he fought on both sides of the Civil War. He was also given to exaggeration.The book is most gripping when Stanley explores Africa in three audacious expeditions. The author also judges Stanley in terms on the 19th century. It must be remembered through-out these journeys that Stanley was often alone with an African crew to help him. The trust between him and his African team was mutual. The climate, the terrain and some of the inhabitants encountered on these expeditions were adversarial. At times it was truly a journey into the ‘Heart of Darkness’ with starvation, cannibals, and disease. Stanley had malaria several times. Most of his European companions died during the explorations, many succumbed shortly after. Stanley must have had a remarkable physical constitution to have withstood three expeditions.Where most Europeans after Stanley disdained Africa and exploited Africans – the author (I feel) successfully defends Stanley against these accusations.Stanley was a man driven to live life to the fullest. Tim Jeal portrays this exuberant personality with zest and humanity. It is indeed sad that towards the end of his life – this man who crisscrossed Africa on foot became paralyzed and bed-ridden.

  1. Tim Jeal is the author of acclaimed biographies of Livingstone and Baden Powell His memoir, Swimming with My Father, was published by Faber in 2004 and was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley Prize for Autobiography He is also a novelist and a former winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.

673 Reply to “Stanley: Africa's Greatest Explorer”

  1. He was John Rowlands, a Welsh workhouse bastard, rejected by his mother and father, lowest of the low, poorest of the poor And yet, when he got married finally, at the age of 49 it was in Westminster Abbey by a bishop in the presence of the prime minister Mr Gladstone and the painters Sir John Millais and Sir Frederick Leighton and a fragrant potpourri of dukes peers of the realm.These days people have careers, but in them days, people could invent themselves completely There were no rules When [...]


  2. An exhilarating look at the explorer Stanley He is indeed an individual who overcame adversity he was born in poverty, abandoned to an orphanage and successfully re invented himself in the U.S where he changed his name He then became the famous explorer we all know think of the immortal expression Dr Livingstone I presume.As the author points out Stanley was constantly trying to prove himself In the U.S he fought on both sides of the Civil War He was also given to exaggeration.The book is most g [...]


  3. Henry Morton Stanley, most famous for the line, Dr Livingston, I presume can arguably be said to have been the greatest land explorer adventurer who ever lived He led numerous expeditions through central Africa in the 1870s 80s building much of the world s knowledge of The Lost Continent , including the ultimate source of the Nile He was the first to circumnavigate Lake Victoria in a small boat with only 11 men , proving that it was a single body of water, not several Similarly he led expedition [...]


  4. I m finding this really hard going Stanley seems to have been an extraordinary man, and to have had thrilling adventures, but this writer just sucks all the life out of it I will try and finish it, but only because I m interested in Stanley himself.A year later I just couldn t finish it Every time the writer related an interesting event in Stanley s life, he then went on to convince us it didn t happen How can anyone make exploring Africa boring Later still I tried, I really tried Then, I gave u [...]


  5. Dr Livingstone, I presume That, in a nutshell, sums up almost everything I knew about Henry Morton Stanley he was an American journalist who set out to discover the missing Dr Livingstone in the wilds of Africa This this is almost all most people know of him does him a grave disservice In his day Stanley was probably the greatest explorer alive, renowned not just for his discovery of the missing Dr Livingstone whilst on assignment for a New York newspaper, but for charting the wilds of East Afri [...]


  6. The reputation of Henry Stanley has suffered because of his involvement as an agent of King Leopold and his participation in opening the Congo to Imperialist land grabbing resulting in horrible crimes against the population The author attempts to rectify the situation with this biography It is an in depth and scholarly work based on information from Stanley s personal papers and diarys that were previously unavailable to Stanley s other biographers The author, however,tries too hard to justify s [...]


  7. I only lasted through 1 4 of Jeal s book I stopped right after Stanley found Livingstone While the title is accurate the circumstances of Stanley s life are amazingly unlikely this account is written too academically to be enjoyable Jeal spends far too much ink defending his sources and disputing the findings of other authors These digressions from the actual story, sometimes three pages long on their own, are far too distracting I look forward to reading someone else s teling of the Stanley sto [...]


  8. There was a certain contingent of children in my elementary school who, when the librarians were explaining the Dewey Decimal System, raised their hands upon hearing the word Biography The librarians had asked us about our preferred genres, and I couldn t possibly fathom what these individuals mostly girls, in my small New York suburb found fascinating about people real people who died long ago Superior, clearly, were works that explained the stars and planets with colorful illustrations If not [...]


  9. Excellent A major work on a man much complex than he was perhaps remembered And perhaps not as evil, pompous or racist as he was largely seen Jeal has delivered what is probably the definitive biography, with access to all Stanley s official and private letters that were only really released by the family in time for Jeal to access This is a fascinating, readable, but also rigorously researched book Jeal delves into Stanley s upbringing in a Welsh workhouse as effectively an abandoned child, wh [...]


  10. Tim Jeal s biography of the explorer Henry Morton Stanley is amazing I don t know if Jeal would appreciate this comparison, but Stanley is like the Forrest Gump of the mid 1800s The man keeps popping up in momentous historical events for instance, he fought on both sides of the American Civil War.Jeal offers a balanced, sympathetic view of a complicated man one who was both bold and timid, cruel and generous In Jeal s hands, the life of H.M Stanley is almost like a Dickens novel Stanley was a ma [...]


  11. NYT review by Paul Theroux nyti vxH18u We went into the heart of Africa self invited therein lies our fault, Stanley confided to his diary The words are quoted in this magnificent new life of the man, by Tim Jeal, a biography that has many echoes for our own time There have been many biographies of Stanley, but Jeal s is the most felicitous, the best informed, the most complete and readable and exhaustive, profiting from his access to an immense new trove of Stanley material.


  12. I felt really badly about this book Since I didn t finish the non fiction history I had out, I made an effort on this oned still didn t manage to finish it It s not that Stanley didn t have an interesting story, but the book wasn t gripping At all Had I had a long stretch say, on a plane with nothing else, or maybe even if I was still commuting in the vanpool, I might have finished it, but


  13. This was a pretty disappointing read Jeal had unprecedented access to Stanley s papers and has an excellent command of the period, yet he works so hard to redeem Stanley s reputation that he loses sight of the big picture Entertaining, but far from enlightening.


  14. Een interessante biografie van Stanley, de Afrika ontdekkingsreiziger Ik had al veel over hem gelezen in andere boeken over Afrika en daarin kwam hij er niet zo goed vanaf Deze schrijver corrigeert veel van die meningen Of dat terecht is kan ik niet beoordelen Het is een boeiend boek, maar wel af en toe wat saai gechreven Wel is voor de zoveelste keer duidelikj, dat en de Europeanen en de Arabieren in dat continent veel voor goed hebben vernield.



  15. When I studied History, we didn t take much notice of explorers because they just weren t relevant Why search for something that the locals already knew was there Plus there is all that pious stuff about Livingstone, which is deadly dull if you don t think spreading Christianity is necessary So, this biography didn t seem like one I d be interested in Especially as it was about the American who found Livingstone yet another example of Brits needing American help and somehow involved in the horro [...]


  16. Tim Jeal has amassed an astounding amount of research and information on Henry Stanley that could only stem from a lifetime of fascination and resolve to uncover and understand a long list of important historical figures, heroes, victims, villains, and regions, all colliding and leading directly up to this present moment Having complete access to this wealth of information Jeal could leap ahead of himself and reveal Stanley blockily, casting the shadows of his later years erroneously over his yo [...]


  17. The impossible life of Africa s greatest explorer No kidding Quite an amazing life indeed Courage, toughness, grit, and defying the odds that s my impression of Stanley after reading this book.Young Stanley wanted adventure Inspired by the likes of Richard Burton, he and some friends traveled to Turkey, intent on exploring, adventuring, and then writing about their experiences afterward to get rich and famous back home Things did not turn out their supplies and horses were captured and the group [...]


  18. Educational and informative Biography of British explorer Henry Morton Stanley and his four main expeditions in Africa1 Discovery of Dr Livingstone in eastern central Africa2 Trans Continental Journey to discover source of Nile River and complete Livingstone s work tracing the Lualaba River into either the Nile incorrect or the Congo River correct 3 Opening of Lower and Upper Congo River to trading missionaries and subsequent usurpation by Leopold of Belgium4 Relief of Emin Pasha in Sudan pretty [...]


  19. I am so very grateful that this book was written It is the first boo, in my opinion, that gives Stanley s whole life a decent tone of coverage Being forever defined by his colonial acts of exploration and barbaric tactics in achieving success, writings on the man have forever been handled in a black and white mindset Everyone has written on Stanley s savage tactics in the bush, his falsities in his published works and his connection to Leopold II He has been secured as the icon of the ignorant w [...]


  20. An amazingly detailed and thoroughly researched biography of one of the world s greatest explorers The detail of Stanley s early life certainly shed light on his later feats His personal life was also dealt with in some detail during his years as an explorer By the time I reached the end of the book and the end of Stanley s life, I felt I had somewhat gotten to know the man This book shows a side of the explorer never seen before in any previous biography.Big niggle The author writes as if he kn [...]


  21. Currently there are two reviews ratings for this book on here that I can immediately see and the ratings for it cannot be different On the whole, I enjoyed it It is written in a clear way that keeps the reader engaged It is a little one sided and the author portrays Stanley as the hero he the author thinks Stanley should be remembered as, not as he is currently perceived That being said he does make his points well using a considerable variety of sources often conflicting though, which is where [...]


  22. If you are a fan of Victorian exploration, then this book is for you You will love it It contains much new original research by the author, all meticulously documented If, however, you picked it up out of curiosity, and because it was on sale for half price, then there is probably way information in this book about Stanley than you need Although it was fascinating to find out that he almost certainly did not say, Dr Livingstone, I presume And he was born a Welshman, but was abandoned by both pa [...]


  23. In interesting story for sure, but for me not as successful as other biographies, including my favorites Rise of Theodore Roosevelt or Team of Rivals Where those are written with a sense of humor and whole appreciation for the eccentricities of their subjects, this one was all about two things 1 the author s publishing various things about Stanley for the first time ever or contrary to what has been accepted by all previous historians and 2 how Stanley overcame is troubled childhood The latter i [...]


  24. A great biography of Africa s greatest explorer This book ignited a major interest in Stanley Truly an extraordinary story, beautifully told with obvious commitment to the subject Meticulously researched and persuasively presented, Tim Jeal makes a clear case debunking many of the myths about the man who emerges as the greatest of the African explorers, whose reputation has unfairly suffered because of the disgraceful exploitation of him by the Belgian Leopold Both the humanity, and human anguis [...]


  25. This was a fascinating read The difficulties of exploration at this time and the rate at which people died in the attempt is astounding From disease and wild animals to being attacked with poisoned darts by natives, this was a very challenging place Provisions were carried by humans because horses wouldn t survive in central Africa due to the tsetse fly There was also no relationship drawn between being bitten by mosquitoes and suffering from malaria The other aspect of the book I found most int [...]


  26. A good book that offers up a thorough reexamination on one of the maligned African explorers The point is not so much to demonstrate Stanley as a saint, though you can feel the author wanting to go that route at times, but rather to favorably compare him with his peers, especially David Livingstone Less an apologetic biography as much as an apologetic work about an unapologizable profession Though thoroughly researched and very analytical towards Stanley the man, I was a little disappointed by [...]


  27. I picked this book up at my parents and was immediately hooked This is history at its best Tim Jeal deconstructs some of the myths about Stanley most famous for discovering Livingstone and does so on the basis not of speculation but a wealth of research and information He tells the story superbly and gives a tremendous insight into Victorian Britain, the US and Africa It is an honest and vivid story of an incredible man which covers accusation of homosexuality and also sheds new light on the vex [...]


  28. Two stars because it was well written and contained some interesting anecdotes and nuance but on the balance this book made me rage I can t even handle colonial apologetics I can appreciate the idea that Stanley didn t have a full picture of Leopold s aims in the Congo, but Jeal explicitly aims to restore Stanley s reputation and ends up obscuring and minimizing the actual role both structural and discursive that Stanley played in helping to establish one of the most brutal colonial rules in his [...]


  29. The famous quote, Dr Livingstone, I presume is all that seems to be remembered about this great explorer who survived three major African expeditions in the late 1800s He was later blamed as a colonialist and as someone who did not care for the native Africans This book sets the record straight about Stanley, born Welsh and placed in a workhouse for children American emigree who fought in the Civil War for both sides and explorer who desired most to see an end to the slave trade in Africa The ha [...]


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