September 22 , 2008



Sir Henry Morton Stanley, greatest of African explorers, was one of the most fascinating late Victorian adventurers. Born into poverty and illegitimacy, he survived a series of incredible adventures at sea and in the USA to emerge as a journalist of talent after the American Civil War. His coverage of the British Ethiopian expedition to chastise Emperor Theodore brought him to the attention of James Gordon Bennett who commissioned him to find David Livingstone in Africa, the greatest single feat in African exploration.

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Yet behind the public man lay a disturbed personality. A pathological liar with sadomasochistic tendencies, Stanley's achievements exacted a high human cost. As Frank McLynn's masterly study shows, his foundation of the Congo Free State on behalf of Leopold II of Belgium, and the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition were both dubious enterprises which tarnished his reputation, revealing the complex - and often troubling - relationship that Stanley had with Africa.

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