A Labyrinth of Kingdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa

Stephen Kemper, Author, Steve Kemper, Author
Steve Kemper. Norton, $27.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-393-07966-1
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Release date: 06/01/2012
Open Ebook - 432 pages - 978-0-393-08406-1
Paperback - 415 pages - 978-0-393-34623-7
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Journalist Kemper tells the engrossing story of a German scholar’s five-and-a-half year, 10,000-mile journey across North and Central Africa in an age when that continent was as remote and exotic to Europeans as the North Pole. In 1849, Heinrich Barth set off with a small British expedition to explore the little-known Islamic kingdoms of North and Central Africa. As his companions perished along the way, Barth continued to navigate a world of tropical disease, ceaseless warfare, and religious extremists who murdered Christians on sight. Despite the hardships, Barth never neglected his careful documentation of the wonders and miseries of these regions. Defying steep odds, he made his way to the legendary city of Timbuktu and made it back alive. Kemper is a capable writer and clearly highlights the drama and singularity of Barth’s odyssey. An obsessive student who picked up new languages with ease, Barth was an exemplar of the tireless scholar that the 19th century produced in legions. Unlike the colonizers in his wake, Barth respected the cultures he encountered, but his uncompromising disposition and European nationalism condemned him to obscurity. (July)
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