Books  General Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel 

The Sad Story of Burton, Speke, and the Nile - Or, Was John Hanning Speke a Cad?

By: W Carnochan

Stanford University Press

Hardback | Feb 2006 | #166550 | ISBN: 0804753253
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NHBS Price: £39.95 $56/€45 approx

About this book

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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W.B. Carnochan is Richard W. Lyman Professor of the Humanities Emeritus in the English Department at Stanford University. His works include Lemuel Gulliver's Mirror for Man (1968), Confinement and Flight: An Essay on English Literature of the Eighteenth Century (1977), Gibbon's Solitude: The Inward World of the Historian (1987), and The Battleground of the Curriculum: Liberal Education and the American Experience (1993).

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