By: W Carnochan
This is a study of the famous controversy between Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke, fellow explorers who quarreled over Speke's claim (which was accurate) to have discovered the source of the Nile in the course of their joint expedition to central Africa in the 1850s. The controversy ended with Speke's shocking death of a gunshot wound, probably accidental, on the eve of a debate by the two men in 1864. In the large literature generated by the controversy, Burton (the better known of the two) has usually had the upper hand. Speke has sometimes been called a "cad." On the basis of new evidence and a careful reading of dueling texts by the two men, this study concludes that the case against Speke remains unproven - and that the entire narrative, as it has become ingrained, is an example of the uncertainty to which historical narratives are subject.
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