Mapping Africa: European Cartography 1375-Present
Antique Maps of Africa are beautiful in their own right (many were originally printed as decorative art for sale to a newly prosperous class of merchants and traders), but they also reveal the slow growth of knowledge of the geography of this mysterious and near-impenetrable continent—and sometimes myth and the persistence of error—and illustrate the pace of European penetration and colonization.
Millions of Africans, forcibly removed from their home continent, were until two centuries ago exported to labor as property in the mines and plantations of the New World. Their forced labor produced the flood of wealth that changed the economies of the old world, prompted industrialization, and foresaw today’s global economy. Determined efforts to outlaw and ultimately to eliminate this criminal business finally succeeded in the early 19th century, thanks in part to policing by the Royal and United States Navies.
Their forced labor produced the flood of wealth that changed the economies of the old world, prompted industrialization, and foresaw today’s global economy. Determined efforts to outlaw and ultimately to eliminate this criminal business finally succeeded in the early 19th century, thanks in part to policing by the Royal and United States Navies.
Through the Dark Continent, Henry Morton Stanley and the Exploration of Africa
Stanley’s successful search in 1871 for the Scottish medical missionary, David Livingstone, was a newspaper circulation-building caper funded by the N.Y. Herald’s publisher. Its brilliant success, Stanley’s subsequent bold trek east to west across Central Africa in 1874-77, and his later services to Leopold II made him famous, and thrust Africa indelibly into the consciousness of the western world.
The Young Dr. Arthur Conan Doyle at Sea to West Africa
Conan Doyle’s second cruise as a ship’s doctor in 1881-82, on board the African Steam Navigation Company’s unlucky steamer Mayumba (Liverpool round trip via eleven ports in West Africa, along an outbound track similar to ours), nearly killed him. ACD survived fever to go on five years later to create literature’s most famous sleuth (Sherlock Holmes), adopt spiritualism, serve in the Boer War, and—despite two happy marriages—to agitate for divorce law reform, this while writing an enormous number of books and articles.
Congo, the Miserable Expeditions and Dreadful Death of Lt. Emory Taunt, USN
Former Navy Lieutenant Taunt’s third time in the Congo, as the first resident American diplomat in equatorial Africa, ended in January 1891 with his death along the great river, the familiar fate then of many Europeans in King Leopold’s private estate. His life and times at the end of that century open a window today on the tragic history of this deeply troubled nation.
From Kisangani to Banana Point, by Small Boat through ‘the Heart of Darkness’ in 2011
A narrated show of photographs taken during my 1,400 mile book research expedition with my son down the Congo River from its headwaters at Stanley Falls, overland from Kinshasa to Matadi past the river’s rapids through the Crystal Mountains, and then by water again to the Congo’s mouth on the Atlantic.
Joseph Conrad and “the Heart of Darkness”
Born in Poland in 1857, this British merchant mariner is famous today for his many novels, chief among them “Heart of Darkness” (1899), drawn from six frustrating and feverish months in Congo waiting unsuccessfully to take command of a riverboat. Conrad’s book about the jungle, the river, and evil incarnate is the lens through which many see Congo today.
The Boer Wars, 1880-81 and 1899-02
Separated by almost a generation, these bloody colonial wars fought to a split decision on the strategic tip of South Africa pit Great Britain’s imperial ambitions against those of Dutch-speaking settlers farming African tribal lands. The wars shaped the politics of South Africa through much of the 20th century (coincidently making the young Winston Churchill a hero in 1899 and launching his political career), beginning with the Union of South Africa in 1920 and stretching to the end of apartheid in 1994.