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Travels in the Interior of Africa [Paperback]

Mungo Park

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Book Description

Dec 17 2010
In 1795, a young Scottish physician set out to explore the course of the Niger River. The detailed notes from his arduous two-year adventure in West Africa provided Europeans with their first reliable account of the region. Two centuries later, this early classic of travel literature offers singular geographic and anthropological observations of Africa before colonial influence.

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About the Author

Mungo Park was born on 10 September 1771, at Foulshiels, Scotland. He excelled academically, studying medicine at the University of Edinburgh. His first major contribution was to be in the field of natural science, discovering eight new species of fish off Sumatra. His travels in Africa however, and his courageous attempts to map the course of the Niger river sealed his place in history. Many conflicting reports exist regarding Park's death, but it is generally accepted to have been in January 1806, on the Niger. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest African Explorer of all time. May 9 2010
By Paul I. Dukel Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Personally, I don't like Amazon's 5 star rating system, in my opinion too many people rate books 5 star, which in my mind would be a book 100% perfect in every category. To me this is practically unattainable. So I give this book a 5 star rating with reservations, I would prefer a 4 3/4 rating if this were possible. There should be a 7 star rating system, with 7 stars being practically unattainable.
Having said this, this is the greatest work of travel and exploration I have ever read. And I have read the greatest, all the African greats; Burton, Baker, Stanley, Livingston, Mary Kingsley & etc., etc. Also the North American giants; Lewis & Clark, Champlain, La Salle, Jedediah Smith and the rest; and most of the South Americans of fame, Spruce, Bates, Humbolt, Dr. Richard Schultes et.al. And last but not least the the Asian explorers, such as Doughty, Thessiger, Hedin and many more. I say this so you know where I'm coming from. But "Travels into the Interior of Africa" by Mungo Park is my favorite. Read it and you may agree with me, I don't know why this book is so ignored, especially after reading so many rave reviews on Amazon on Mary Kingsley's, "Travels in West Africa" {but she deserves it}.There are heart touching as well as humorous scenes in this book especially in his encounters with African women. Park's courage, perseverance, humility, humanity and his empathy for the African peoples he encounters as well as his informative account of the exotic makes this book a great read. The "good, the bad, and the ugly" are all here, and it is written in a straightforward and manly style.To me he was truly one of the greatest explorers of all times!
I have a more expensive edition of this work but it sure looks like this "Wordsworth" edition is a good buy!I've got to check out more of their titles on African exploration if any are available!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History and Adventure Sept. 5 2011
By A Critic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The first journey is a pretty well-written account (polished by a ghost-writer) that compares favorably to any true-life adventure story. Park provides many sociological and economic details of the different villages and groups he encounters, along the Gambia and Niger, during his unsuccessful treck to find the source of the latter. Though he is often robbed and ill-treated, he also, at times, encounters compassion and friendship. As a result, his account is probably more humanistic than some others. Of course, there were no cannibals in the part of the continent he explored.

Many will be surprised by Park's account of slavery. Park estimated that about two-thirds of the Africans he encountered along his trip were slaves to other blacks. He also thought that human trafficking in Africa was not substantially exacerberated by encounters with Europeans.

The second journey is shorter, much drier and unpolished: essentially it is Park's mostly unannotated diary. Delays led to the men undertaking the journey during the wet-season, and the deathcount due to disease is staggering. Out of the forty white men who initially set out, only three, including Park himself, survived their maladies to meet a violent end. The author adds a short account of some of the rumors that escaped Africa when the expedition was well overdue. The guide of the second leg of the trip was later tracked down and able to provide a non-eyewitness account of Mr. Park's untimely end.

Anyone interested in the pre-colonial history of Africa would be well-advised to read this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Has Heard Tell of a Man Named Mungo Park? Nov. 21 2013
By DH Koester - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Theres been plenty of stories and publicity over the search for the source of the Nile (Africas longest river) and the European exploreres who risked life and limb to discover it. The source was actually two rivers, the Blue Nile flowing out of Ethiopia's Lake Tana, discovered early in the 1600s, and the White Nile whose source was determined by John Speke in 1858 to be Uganda's Lake Victoria confirmed by Henry Stanley in 1875. The Blue and the White join up in Sudan forming the mighty Nile that eventually flows north into the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria.

Stanley is also credited in 1875 with finding the source of Africa's second longest river, the Congo (or Zaire)-- the Chambeshi River out of the highlands of NE Zambia between Lakes Tanganyika and Malawi.

As for Africa's third longest river, the Niger, it was a question not of finding the source, southeast Guinea Bissau, but the end. Here is where a Scott named Mungo Park (1771-1806) enters the history books. At the age of 23(23!!) he embarked on a two year expedition--alone-- down the Niger, making it as far as its northern most point, Timbuktu in Mali, approximately the mid point of its length. In so doing he became perhaps the first European to set eyes on the Middle Niger.

Mungo returned home, to a career as a surgeon and in his spare time, from his extensive journal notes, penned his famous book, "Travels into the Interior", the subject of this review.

In 1804 at the age of 33,he led an expedition of 40 men back to the Niger. This time he made it just 150 miles short of the Niger's termination point, the Niger Delta in the Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean. It was here that he and the entire expedition perished in a torrent of river rapids and falls--drowned all.

"Travels into the Interior" was not meant to be a literary masterpiece--simply a first person account of yet one more man's courageous journey into the unknown. Along the way he rolled with the blows, did what he had to do to stay alive and somehow, at the same time, managed to take notes on what he saw and experienced. More than 200 years later, we are the beneficiaries of his life-sacrificing mission, recounting it in the comfort of our living rooms.
His accounts are fascinating, heart-rending, horrifying and astounding.
This book is the real deal--a pure, authentic, and unvarnished look at men, both white and black, and their often-times pathetic attempts at living in and understanding the world in which they live.

DH Koester--"And There I Was" And There I Was Volume IV: A Backpacking Adventure In Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-Opener Oct. 2 2013
By Robin A. Gower - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Park's account of his travels though western Africa in the late 18th century provide a completely new (for perspective) on indigenous communities, structures of authority, Islamic vs. traditional religious groups, and the nature of the slave trade. In Park's Africa, the European traveler is still vulnerable to the strictures and control of Africans.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! Jan. 3 2012
By S. Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Incredible account of his travels. It does drag a bit toward then end, though.

It certainly doesn't paint a very nice picture of the Blacks in their own native country. Park bends over backwards to try and understand and empathize with the Blacks he travels through and he certainly meets some outstandingly good individuals. But in general, they tend to be pretty unpleasant characters: greedy, selfish, belligerent. The worst of the people he encounters are the Moors, the Moslem Africans. They're really despicable. But the other Blacks are pretty miserable, too, not just to the defenseless Park, but to each other, continually waging war and enslaving each other. And it's this same tendency to belligerence and greediness that causes Park's ultimate demise.

This picture of the Africans in their native land was completely unexpected and left a real bad taste in my mouth. This is just one man's experiences so I probably shouldn't place too much weight on it. Park does compare his bad treatment to what he could have expected in his own country if he'd been traveling alone and carrying great treasure, i.e., he couldn't have expected any better.

A Frenchman, Rene Cailllie, actually made it through to Timbucktoo 20 years later and wrote a long book about it. Unfortunately, it's no longer in print, although it's available from Google in PDF. Don't know when I'll make time to read it, I don't own an eReader.

I guess the best thing you can say about this whole ugly business is that it just shows how over-populated Africa had become and how advanced the African Blacks had become towards civilization.

I really can't recommend this book highly enough. This Wordsworth edition is really excellent, too.
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