Stanley: Africas Greatest Explorer

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Disappointingly, it seems that Stanley never actually said the words 'Dr Livingstone, I presume? The book made him a celebrity. It also exonerated and canonised Livingstone. The crusty Scots missionary had been panned by the press for wasting public money and making false promises about trade that didn't exist, and Stanley in his book invented the myth of Livingstone as a saintly hero - though in fact he converted only one African to Christianity, and even he later lapsed. Stanley's greatest African journey was the expedition, when he completed Livingstone's work by triumphantly solving the problem of the source of the Nile.

Jeal makes it plain that Stanley's success depended above all on his ability to keep his band of or so Africans together. Deep in the jungle, surrounded by hostile tribes who had been devastated by the cruel raids of Arab-Swahili slavers, survival for Stanley was a matter of stopping his men from deserting, dying, or stealing the cloth, beads and wire which they carried for bartering for food. Stanley was devoted to his Wagwana helpers from Zanzibar.

Sir Henry Morton Stanley

They served him on all his expeditions and became his surrogate family. Africa really did bring him emotional peace - although it also destroyed his health, wracking his body with tropical fevers. While Stanley understood Africans, he was a poor judge of Europeans. He made a bad error in agreeing to work for King Leopold in the Congo.

Henry Morton Stanley

Jeal's research shows that Stanley never stole land from Congo chiefs, as his critics have claimed. He had a genuine horror of slavery, and he would have been mortified had he known of the atrocities which occurred in the Congo after he left Leopold's employment. Stanley the workhouse boy could never trust or work with public-school men in the way that he could with Africans. On his fourth and last expedition in he was ill-served by his British officers who, when Stanley's back was turned, mutilated Africans and bought them for sex. Stanley was appalled, and these revelations blasted his reputation.

He was pathetically naive too with women. Late in life he was manipulated into marriage by Dolly Tennant, a spoiled princess who forbade him from returning to Africa and forced him become an MP, which he loathed. Tim Jeal's absorbing biography will surely be definitive. The story of how an emotionally damaged Victorian pauper opened up the Dark Continent is an extraordinary one, and Jeal has written a great book - shrewd, perceptive and engaging. Love puzzles? Get the best at Telegraph Puzzles. Books on Amazon. A collection of the best contributions and reports from the Telegraph focussing on the key events, decisions and moments in Churchill's life.

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Relief of Livingstone

Style Book. Weather Forecast. Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation. Within a few years Belgian officers were decorating their flower beds with skulls and Conrad was constructing Kurtz from what he saw. But Tim Jeal likes a challenge. He wants to cross the uncharted continent of Stanley's better side and track down the source of all the bile. Armed with a huge cache of previously unseen letters and papers, he delivers a remarkable reassessment, one that will send shivers through historians and writers on Africa.

Sir Henry Morton Stanley | British explorer |

Maybe we all got it wrong. The key to the man, Jeal argues, lies in his childhood. Stanley was born John Rowlands in Denbigh, Wales, in He was illegitimate and unwanted, his mother abandoned him as a baby and his relatives consigned him to the workhouse at the age of six. None of them would show the slightest interest in him until much later, when he had money.

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At 17 Stanley embarked for America, where he adopted the name of a rich New Orleans cotton merchant - a man he probably never met. After serving on both sides in the civil war, he began to work out who he wanted to be, testing the thin line between inspirational leader and inspired conman. His need to be accepted and loved was only eclipsed by his need to protect himself from hurt and humiliation.

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  • Long after he had settled on the bullish persona of an American adventurer and war reporter, Stanley remained in perpetual fear of being unmasked as a Welsh pauper and bastard. It was a fear that never left him. Even as an old man he travelled to New Orleans and scoured the graveyards, hoping to find deceased Stanleys who might be "adopted" and passed off as family.

    Throughout his life, Jeal argues, this fear drove him to extraordinary feats of duplicity that marred his own reputation. Whether it was he or Stanley who dreamed up the ultimate scoop of finding David Livingstone is a moot point. But by Stanley had done what the Royal Geographical Society had singularly failed to do: locate the cantankerous old curmudgeon and save his life.

    It was an astonishing feat and one Stanley soon followed up by solving the problems of the sources of the Nile and the Congo. On the same journey he also uncovered the horrendously brutal Arab slave trade and, in a voyage of truly epic suffering and privation, traced the Congo to the Atlantic. He should have been hailed a hero, of course, the greatest African explorer of all time.

    Instead, in Britain at least, he received half-hearted praise and some full-blooded vitriol. Jeal goes back to Stanley's original diaries and those of fellow expedition members to show why this happened.

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    The problem was that Stanley's need for acceptance and respect led him to consistently exaggerate the size and importance of his expeditions, and significantly, the mortality rates in battles with the tribes he elbowed aside en route to glory. Jeal argues, persuasively, that this need to be seen as tough and indomitable conspired to hide the fact that he was actually a sensitive soul who only used force as a last resort.

    Photographs of the time back up the character assessment: Stanley's face invariably a curious mixture of wounded courage and childlike vulnerability.

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    In Britain his expeditions elicited outrage. How dare this impertinent young American muscle his way through Africa - our patch - and kill black people. There were, as Jeal points out, huge quantities of self-delusion and hypocrisy in this.

    10th November 1871: Henry Morton Stanley locates Dr David Livingstone

    Arab slave raids were creating the hostile conditions in east Africa, not Stanley, and British explorers such as Speke, Burton and even the supposed saint, Livingstone, were sometimes forced to behave brutally in order to stay alive themselves. Unlike Stanley, however, they were sufficiently alert to British public sentiment to keep quiet about it.

    And yet there was worse to come. Having fallen in with King Leopold, Stanley became the architect of a vicious private kingdom in the Congo basin.