Mungo Park's Ghost
The Haunted Hubris of British Explorers in Nineteenth-Century Africa
Author(s): Dane Kennedy
Publication Date: 25/1/24
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In 1816 the British sent two large, ambitious expeditions to Africa, one to follow the Niger River to its outlet, the other to trace the Congo River to its source. Their shared goal was to complete the unfinished mission of Mungo Park, who had disappeared during a journey to determine whether the Niger and the Congo were the same river. Both quests ended disastrously and were soon forgotten. Telling the full story of these failed expeditions for the first time, Dane Kennedy argues that they provide fresh insight into British ambitions in Africa. He places them in the contexts of the imperial rivalry with France, the slave trade and the abolition campaign, and the independent power wielded by African states and peoples. He also shows that they were haunted by the same sense of hubris that would afflict many of the expeditions that followed. This hubris was Mungo Park's ghost.
- Places these two expeditions in the wider contexts of the slave trade and its abolition, imperial rivalry with France, and British economic interests
- Highlights the various roles that Africans played in shaping the outcomes of these expeditions
- Shows how domestic British interest groups used the media to shape the public's perception of the expeditions