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ISBN: 9781780277998
Published: 03 Nov 2022
Format: Hardback
Extent: 384
Publisher: Birlinn Ltd
Imprint: Birlinn
Biography & memoir / History
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About the Book

Majestic River: Mungo Park and the Exploration of the Niger is about geography, exploration, and a 2000-year-old geographical mystery. By the eighteenth century, the river Niger was to Europeans a source of wonder, potential wealth, and a two-part problem. The first would be solved by Mungo Park in 1796. Park’s death in 1806 in failing to solve the second prompted other expeditions which sought to determine the cause of his death and to trace the Niger’s course.

This book offers the first full length biography of Mungo Park for over forty years. It traces the expeditions who followed him. It documents for the first time Park’s afterlife - how and why he was commemorated long after his death. The book shows how the Niger was slowly ‘revealed,’ in texts, maps and through indigenous knowledge. The Niger problem was finally solved by exploration in 1830. But years before, it had already been solved by ‘armchair geographers’ who never set foot in Africa and who, unlike Park, did not die trying. 

Park remains today one of Britains best known explorers and his classic Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa both became a bestseller and has remained in print for over 200 years. The mystery of Park's death and the ongoing fascination with the Niger problem prompted expedition after expedition well into the 19th century. This is not simply one of the great stories of world exploration but a rich and varied account of Africa and its cultures at the time.

'Punchy, eloquent, and infused with forensic research ...This book is in all senses a geographical epic' - Nicholas Crane, writer and presenter, BBC Two’s Coast and author of The Making of the British Landscape

The Author

Charles W. J. Withers

Charles W. J. Withers is Professor Emeritus and former Ogilvie Chair of Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh. In 2015 he was appointed the first Geographer Royal for Scotland in 118 years. He is co-editor of Geographies of the Book (2010), co-author of Scotland: Mapping the Nation (2011) and co-author of Scotland: Mapping the Islands.

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