A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles through Islamic Africa by Steve Kemper, NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles through Islamic Africa

A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles through Islamic Africa

by Steve Kemper
     
 

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A true story that rivals the travels of Burton or Stanley for excitement, and surpasses them in scientific achievements.

In 1849 Heinrich Barth joined a small British expedition into unexplored regions of Islamic North and Central Africa. One by one his companions died, but he carried on alone, eventually reaching the fabled city of gold, Timbuktu. His five-and

Overview

A true story that rivals the travels of Burton or Stanley for excitement, and surpasses them in scientific achievements.

In 1849 Heinrich Barth joined a small British expedition into unexplored regions of Islamic North and Central Africa. One by one his companions died, but he carried on alone, eventually reaching the fabled city of gold, Timbuktu. His five-and-a-half-year, 10,000-mile adventure ranks among the greatest journeys in the annals of exploration, and his discoveries are considered indispensable by modern scholars of Africa.

Yet because of shifting politics, European preconceptions about Africa, and his own thorny personality, Barth has been almost forgotten. The general public has never heard of him, his epic journey, or his still-pertinent observations about Africa and Islam; and his monumental five-volume Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa is rare even in libraries. By delivering the first biography on Barth in English, Steve Kemper goes a long way to rescue this fascinating figure from obscurity.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Journalist Kemper tells the engrossing story of a German scholar’s five-and-a-half year, 10,000-mile journey across North and Central Africa in an age when that continent was as remote and exotic to Europeans as the North Pole. In 1849, Heinrich Barth set off with a small British expedition to explore the little-known Islamic kingdoms of North and Central Africa. As his companions perished along the way, Barth continued to navigate a world of tropical disease, ceaseless warfare, and religious extremists who murdered Christians on sight. Despite the hardships, Barth never neglected his careful documentation of the wonders and miseries of these regions. Defying steep odds, he made his way to the legendary city of Timbuktu and made it back alive. Kemper is a capable writer and clearly highlights the drama and singularity of Barth’s odyssey. An obsessive student who picked up new languages with ease, Barth was an exemplar of the tireless scholar that the 19th century produced in legions. Unlike the colonizers in his wake, Barth respected the cultures he encountered, but his uncompromising disposition and European nationalism condemned him to obscurity. (July)
Booklist
“He approached his expedition with an open mind and a willingness to engage with those around him regardless of their social status. Barth’s insights into the commonalities that exist among different cultures remain relevant today.”
Boston Globe
Steve Kemper’s elegant, richly rewarding biography should go a long way toward correcting [Barth’s obscurity]. On one level, the book is a superb chronicle of Barth’s travels, from the harrowing heat and physical danger to the dazzling diversity of people he encountered on his path. It’s also an astute character study of a relentlessly curious scientific personality.— Kate Tuttle
Wall Street Journal
Mr. Kemper has written an enjoyable account of Barth's great journey packed with arresting details....— Tim Jeal
Shelf Awareness
“A Labyrinth of Kingdoms is a fascinating account both of one man's journey and of African cultures on the eve of European expansion.... Barth's story is equal parts adventure and scholarship. Kemper treats both with a sure hand.”
Expedition News
If you have an ounce of historical exploratory curiosity in your veins, course through this forgotten tale. Timbuktu awaits.— Robert F. Wells
The Times (UK)
Kemper's majestic account of Barth's journey restores the reputation of an explorer who was as passionate about science as he was about rigorous travel. It's an enthralling adventure, captivatingly told.— Ziauddin Sardar
Kate Tuttle - Boston Globe
“Steve Kemper’s elegant, richly rewarding biography should go a long way toward correcting [Barth’s obscurity]. On one level, the book is a superb chronicle of Barth’s travels, from the harrowing heat and physical danger to the dazzling diversity of people he encountered on his path. It’s also an astute character study of a relentlessly curious scientific personality.”
Robert F. Wells - Expedition News
“If you have an ounce of historical exploratory curiosity in your veins, course through this forgotten tale. Timbuktu awaits.”
Tim Jeal - Wall Street Journal
“Mr. Kemper has written an enjoyable account of Barth's great journey packed with arresting details....”
Pamela Toler
“Sometimes a book grabs you by the throat and won’t let you put it down. I recently experienced that with Steve Kemper’s A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa.”
Adam Hochschild
“Heinrich Barth belongs in the ranks of the greatest explorers of Africa. But unlike most of the others, he was less interested in imperial conquest and self-promotion than in the cultures, the peoples, the languages, and the ancient manuscripts that he found there. It's a pleasure to see a lively, readable biography of him in English at last.”
Ziauddin Sardar - The Times (UK)
“Kemper's majestic account of Barth's journey restores the reputation of an explorer who was as passionate about science as he was about rigorous travel. It's an enthralling adventure, captivatingly told.”
Library Journal
Acting for the British government, German national Heinrich Barth became part of an expedition through North and Central Africa in 1849, enduring a five-and-a-half-year trek over 10,000 miles and the deaths of most of his comrades finally to reach that legendary city, Timbuktu. His story has been known primarily to scholars, so this is an important corrective.
Kirkus Reviews
A spirited reconstruction of the arduous five-year trek into Central Africa by Heinrich Barth (1821–1865), a German scientist exploring for England. Kemper (Reinventing the Wheel: A Story of Genius, Innovation, and Grand Ambition, 2005, etc.) ably renders the intensive research involved in delineating Barth's life and travels into an engaging narrative. The arrogant, introspective Barth had recently completed his dissertation, learned Arabic and written his travelogue, Wanderings Along the Shores of the Mediterranean, when he was referred to James Richardson, avid English abolitionist and missionary, for his expedition into Central Africa in 1850. Sponsored by Lord Palmerston, then head of the British Foreign Office, the trip was ostensibly commercial, to "make treaties with African potentates," as well as to spread English civilization and Christianity--the explorers before them had perished by disease and violence. Enduring appalling conditions, such as fever, the deaths of Richardson and other comrades, theft by his Arab guides and especially the lack of funds from England (due to the great lapse in travel time), Barth and his cumbersome camel-laden entourage trekked from Tripoli south through the Sahara. He had to placate the suspicious, murderous Arab chiefs along the way, bribing them with whatever he had, and often being held captive for months. He took assiduous notes about the tribes, mingling with the natives and always asking questions. He discovered a tributary of the Niger, was stranded in Timbuktu and finally rode back to Tripoli in 1855. Back in England, his academic account, when finally published in 1857, was criticized for its tolerant account of the Arabs. With Europe "on the cusp of the imperial age," his news from Africa was unwelcome. A nicely rounded literary study of an intrepid explorer undone by the cultural biases of the time.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393084061
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
06/18/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
926,304
File size:
4 MB

Meet the Author

Steve Kemper is the author of A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa and Code Name Ginger, as well as many articles for national magazines. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
West Hartford, Connecticut
Date of Birth:
November 25, 1951
Place of Birth:
Louisville, Kentucky
Education:
B.A., University of Detroit, 1973; Ph.D., University of Connecticut, 1980
Website:
http://www.stevekemper.net

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