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Travels in West Africa (National Geographic Adventure Classics) Paperback – July 15, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Founded in 1906 by J.M. Dent, the Everyman Library has always tried to make the best books ever written available to the greatest number of people at the lowest possible price. Unique editorial features that help Everyman Paperback Classics stand out from the crowd include: a leading scholar or literary critic's introduction to the text, a biography of the author, a chronology of her or his life and times, a historical selection of criticism, and a concise plot summary. All books published since 1993 have also been completely restyled: all type has been reset, to offer a clarity and ease of reading unique among editions of the classics; a vibrant, full-color cover design now complements these great texts with beautiful contemporary works of art. But the best feature must be Everyman's uniquely low price. Each Everyman title offers these extensive materials at a price that competes with the most inexpensive editions on the market-but Everyman Paperbacks have durable binding, quality paper, and the highest editorial and scholarly standards. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

MARY KINGSLEY was born in London in 1862. She lived the typical life of a single Victorian woman until 1893, when she embarked on a voyage to West Africa, followed by a second trip the following year. On returning home, she wrote Travels in West Africa, which was published in 1897. Kingsley made one final trip to Africa, enlisting as a volunteer nurse in South Africa during the Boer War. She died there in 1900 and was buried at sea. 

LYNETTE TURNER is Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Edge Hill University. 

TOBY GREEN is Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture at Kings College London. His book The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa appeared in 2011. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: National Geographic Adventure Classics
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: National Geographic; Reprint edition (July 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0792266382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0792266389
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #662,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Ein Kunde on April 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Mary Kingsley's "Travels in West Africa" has become a classic, and deservedly so. Her story is remarkable. In the 1890s, unmarried and no longer having to care for her parents, Kingsley decides she should travel in "the tropics" and sets off for "West Africa" (i.e., the West coast of Central Africa). She travels as a scientist, collecting fish specimens, and finances her travels by trading along the way--but mostly she travels for the love of adventure and to satisfy an appetite for the unknown.
Kingsley's book is a treasure trove of information about Atlantic-coast Central Africa in the late 1800s. But beyond its historic and sociological value, the book is just wonderful. Her descriptions are vivid, her insights interesting, and her understated humor is a joy. Anyone with a love of exploration and a good story would enjoy this book. Unabridged versions are highly recommended.
Readers with a particular interest in Gabon should also see the works of Robert Nassau, an American missionary who was in Gabon when Kingsley traveled there. Evidently they met and discussed all things African at length, though Kingsley makes little mention of him. Nassau wrote "Fetichism in West Africa", "In an Elephant Corral" and "My Ogowe", but doesn't get the credit he deserves. Also of interest is "One Dry Season: In the Footsteps of Mary Kingsley" by Caroline Alexander. Alexander visited Gabon in the 1980s and compared what she saw then to what Kingsley had seen a century earlier.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Zechristof on December 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
In 1893 Mary Kingsley, a single Victorian woman, traveled alone to Africa. The sources of her interest in Africa are obscure. Possibly the tales her father brought back to England of his extensive travels lie at the root of her own interest. In any case her account of her travels in west and west-central Africa are a remarkable addition to our knowledge of the region during the early years of the colonial period. Kingsley wrote with a very outward focus. We hear little of her inner feelings, her comfort or lack thereof. Rather, she is consumed with a desire to know the land and its human and natural inhabitants.

We begin to taste the real flavor of Kingsley's experience in Chapter 2 in her account of the island of Fernando Po and its prominent people group, the Bubis. She then voyages down the coast, describing the lonely beauty of the great mangrove swamps that border the Bight of Benin.

Kingsley developed great respect, admiration, and even affection for the traders, black and white, whom she met in her journey. She traveled in their company and relied on them in what would otherwise have been impossible circumstances. Her views of other white colonials were less sanguine. She expressed mixed feelings about white missionaries, acknowledging the uplifting effects of their moral teaching while disdaining their confusion of cultural with spiritual messages.

One of Kingsley's central adventures was her trip from the Ogowe River to the Rembwe River. On this journey, she visited a series of villages each of which was reputed to be more dangerous and depraved than the one before. Her accounts of her lodging in these places are priceless. The difficulties of traveling through swamps and jungles, and across the great rivers of this region, were daunting.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Tony Watson on December 31, 2002
Format: Paperback
Single and independent, with a small allowance after the death of her parents, Mary Kingsley decides to explore Africa. She sets off to the Congo, with no entourage nor special clothing and with no knowledge of the local lingo, knowing that this area was renowned for cannibals. Considering that Richard Burton set off to find the centre of Africa with an entourage of 600 bearers puts Ms.Kingsley's trip into perspective.
This is not just a wishful fantasy, she has an agenda to research the fetish cults of the natives and collect animal specimens, as well as fulfil the wanderlust that she had bottled up while looking after her parents.
She takes everything in her stride, beating off crocodiles - 'he was only a pushing young creature', wading through fetid swamps, falling into a staked animal trap and attributing her salvation to the benefits of a good thick woollen skirt!
She has a wonderful way with words; that dry, laconic humour that starts one into fits of giggling; the page-long description of 'Hubbards' sent out by well-meaning, misguided women in Europe for the use of the natives is absolutely wonderful.
She has excellent communication skills, getting what she wants from any native by offering him exactly what he wants - tobacco (reminding us of Xabicheh in 'Dead Man') - and if he doesn't want that, then he must need a hairpin to clean out his pipe!
I am awed by the determination, bravery, guts and chutzpah of this young woman; even more awed by her writing skills - which are definitely not in the Victorian mold, would that there were more of her books than the two she wrote (the other is 'West African Studies'), sadly this was not to be, as she died of typhoid in Capetown in 1900.
A book to savour - highly recommended! *****
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
Travels in West Africa is a witty, quirky, fascinating work. Mary Kingsley's wry sense of humor had me laughing out loud. A self-educated Victorian woman, she traveled alone to West Africa in 1893 to study the natives' religions and customs and collect fish for the British Museum. Unlike most European explorers, she lived with the people, ate their foods, learned their languages. She continued to dress in proper Victorian clothes despite the heat and inconvenience of hiking in long skirts. She was the first white woman most natives had ever seen. MK was one of the first who felt the white man was ruining the balance in Africa and should stop meddling in the natives' lives and customs. It's not surprising the book is still in print 101 years after first being published. This particular edition is very good.
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