Scramble for Africa...

Paperback (Print)
Rent from
(Save 59%)
Est. Return Date: 07/23/2015
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 41%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $3.46
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 85%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (39) from $3.46   
  • New (9) from $13.35   
  • Used (30) from $3.46   


White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912

The acclaimed author of The Boer War delivers a sweeping narrative history of the European scramble for control of Africa that took place in the late 1800s. Vivid, colorful, and breathtaking, this it the first full-scale history of the conquest, called "a valuable single-volume reference guide to its wonderfully complicated and fascinating subject" by The Wall Street Journal. Illustrated.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Jon Manchip White
An account of one of the most gigantic and astonishing episodes in human history . . . First-class . . . Meticulously written and researched. —Chicago Tribune
William Boyd
A phenomenal achievement . . . Clear, authoritative and compelling . . . tells the story of this particular gold rush with admirable and judicious poise . . . Contains some of the best-known episodes of 19th-Century history as well as some of the most mythologized and colorful characters the world has ever seen . . . Highly readable! —Los Angeles Times Book Review
Peter Stansky
Extraordinary . . . Vital . . . Vivid . . . Refreshing . . . A huge, complex narrative . . . Taking an entire continent as his canvas, Pakenham has painted a picture of heroism and horror . . . He writes both with compassion and with an effective combination of detachment and judgment . . . A splendid book. —The New York Times Book Review
Douglas Porch
An elaborate buffet spread before us . . . With great skill . . . Pakenham strips the impresarios of imperialism of their veneer of Victorian heroism or reputations for statesmanlike vision, to reveal them as men with bloated and often vicious egos. —Washington Post Book World
New Yorker
Marvelous . . . This lively history includes villains an" visionaries of every race and creed.
Lee Lescaze
Remarkable adventures . . . appalling tragedies . . . The cast of characters both European and African is large andcolorful . . . Wonderfully complicated and fascinating. —Wall Street Journal
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380719990
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/28/1992
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 800
  • Sales rank: 386,838
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.28 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Leopold's Crusade

7 January-15 September 1876

'The current is with us.'

Leopold II, King of the Belgians, at the Geographical
Conference in Brussels, 12 September 1876

'He [King Leopold) first explained his views to me
when I was his guest in Brussels some years ago . . .
his designs are most philanthropic and are amongst
the few schemes of the kind . . . free from any selfish
commercial or political object.'
-- Sir Bartle Frere, 1883

The Times was delivered at the palace of Laeken on 7 January 1876, as usual, in time for His Majesty's breakfast. Leopold II had been up since five. Normally he took a walk through the palace gardens, a tall bearded figure, tramping along the gravelled paths with a barely noticeable limp, or, if it was wet, inspecting the hothouses. He read The Times each day. It was the early edition, the one that caught the night mails to the Continent. His own copy was packed in a special cylindrical container, hurried by the South-Eastern Railway from Blackfriars to Dover, then by the steam ferry to Ostend, then thrown from the guard's van as the Brussels express clanged past the royal palace at Laeken where a footman was waiting to retrieve it. Leopold read the paper with the same earnestness he displayed when performing other royal tasks, brushing the front of his blue tunic with his right hand when something caught his eye.

That morning, 7 January, tucked away at the bottom of page six, was a brief note from The Times's correspondent in Loanda,capital of the half-derelict Portuguese colony of Angola, dated nearly seven weeks earlier. Lieutenant Cameron, the British explorer, had reached the west coast after a three-year journey across Africa. He was too ill (half-dead from scurvy) to return to England before the spring. Meanwhile, he was sending some notes from his travels to be read at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society on Monday next.

Four days later, under the heading 'African Exploration', The Times splashed Monday's meeting of the RGS across the first three columns of the home news page. The President, Sir Henry Rawlinson, called Cameron's journey 'one ofthe most arduous and successful journeys which have ever been performed intothe interior of the African continent'. That seemed no exaggeration to thosewho read Cameron's own letters, given to the public at the meeting. Of courseCameron was the first to point out there might be 'diplomatic difficulties' ahead, although no European power yet claimed the land either as a colony or a protectorate. This was because of the huge wealth at stake.

The interior is mostly a magnificent and healthy country of unspeakable richness. I have a small specimen of good coal; other minerals such as gold, copper, iron and silver are abundant, and I am confident that with a wise and liberal (not lavish) expenditure of capital, one of the greatest systems of inland navigation in the world might be utilized, and from 30 months to 36 months begin to repay any enterprising capitalist that might take the matter in hand . . . 1

A country of 'unspeakable richness' waiting for an 'enterprising capitalist'. What were Leopold's own views about young Cameron and his sensational discoveries? Cameron's story certainly caught his eye. Within a few days he had promised the RGS that he would pay, if needed, the princely sum of I00,000 francs (£4000) to cover the expenses Cameron had incurred on the journey.

In public, however, Leopold showed no flicker of interest. In the Senate he would stand like a Roman emperor, tall, bearded, his nose like the prow of a trireme. In his slow booming voice, he spoke the required generalities. He had learnt the craft of monarchy in a hard school. His father, Leopold I, was the son of an impoverished German princeling, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He had had his eye on the good solid throne of England where he would have been consort, through his marriage to Princess Charlotte, George IV's heir presumptive. Charlotte had died in childbirth in 1817. In 1831 Leopold I had picked up a throne in Belgium--but a throne perched on a tightrope. Inside Belgium were two warring peoples, Flemish and Walloon, and two warring sects, Liberals and Catholics. Outside Belgium, hemming it in, were two warring Powers, France and Germany. The King of the Belgians was thus doubly vulnerable. His own survival depended on the goodwill of a bitterly divided people. Belgium's survival depended on the goodwill of two greedy neighbours. To preserve both throne and nation, the King must remain aloof from controversy. Aloofness seemed to come naturally to Leopold II. He seemed to have a natural coolness of heart--or at any rate a temperament chilled by the rebuffs of fortune. His father, Queen Victoria's 'dearest uncle', had shown scant affection for any of his three children. He found Leo gauche and self-willed. Leopold's gentle mother Louise, daughter of Louis-Philippe of France, was devoted to her children, though it was clear Leopold was not her favourite. She had died when Leopold was twelve. And his own son, on whom he doted, died tragically young, leaving Leopold without a direct male heir. At the funeral the King had, for once, lost control. To the alarm of onlookers, he broke down and sobbed aloud by the coffin.

Still, since his accession in 1865, he had hardly put a foot wrong in public. If he was known at all in the world outside Belgium it was as a model, if somewhat pedestrian, ruler. He was admirably free from those delusions of grandeur that so often seemed to fill the crowned heads of petty states.

To his own staff and the handful of politicians who dealt with him regularly, Leopold presented a more complicated character . . .

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2006

    Sweeping Story of Empire

    For historians, leisure readers and all those who like the old dime novels with the gentleman-in-khaki hero, Thomas Pakenham has provided a modern-day sweeping read about the conquest of Africa. Important also as a social history, this book is an indespensable reference for report writing in every field from European history to colonial literature. Follow the true story of politics, adventure, war, greed and sadness as Africa is explored and stomped over by benign missionaries and destructive settlers. Foreign armies clashed over land, and left shameful legacies of political unrest. Westerners clamored for the gold, diamonds and ivory within the continent. This brilliant study accounts for their pioneering, and their recklessness. Follow Cecil Rhodes, Sir George Colley and the rest in this magnificent history.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2005

    As Thorough as the Congo Forests

    An excellent work on one of the most significant periods in world history. Pakenham strikes a fine balance between too much and too little detail to bring the diverse people and places of this work to life. The amount of research done, alone, is a testament to the seriousness the author devoted to this subject. Highly recommended.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2000

    Fascinating adventures for history lovers

    This was the most fascinating history book that my wife and I have read in the past couple of years. Each spell-binding chapter is self-contained and concentrates on a particular region of Africa, a military adventure or mis-adventure, or an intricate political manuevering. We never realized how rapid and unplanned (often nearly accidental) was the European entry (and exit) from all regions of Africa. The relevant politics and personalities in Europe and Africa are vividly portrayed. Stanley the egotistic and manipulated explorer, Belgium King Leopold who made Africa and the Congo into his chessboard, Rhodes the scheming dreamer, etc. It is not a dulling scholarly study, but a well-written series of dramatic episodes. Each of the 20-odd chapters (it is a thick book) is just right for an evening's excursion -- it is difficult to stop in a given chapter, but easy to lay the book down upon completing each one. But it is addictive. After enjoying this book, we bought his earlier 'Boer Wars'.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)