Sunday, July 17, 2011

Richard Francis Burton and John Henning Speke

Early 1900s map of British East Africa
We saw the movie, Mountains of the Moon via Netflix this week. It was badly done (to say it was melodramatic would be an understatement) but the subject was very interesting -- the 1856-59 East African explorations of Sir Richard F. Burton and John Henning Speke. Both are fascinating men, especially Burton, who can be thought of as the proto-anthropologist/ethnographer/explorer. Speke is credited by most with discovering the source of the Nile (Lake Victoria, which he named), but Burton disputed his claim on the basis of insufficient scientific evidence. The dispute unfortunately, destroyed their friendship. Both men endured incredible dangers and daunting hardships in their explorations, both together and separately. Burton was knighted in 1886. Speke died in 1864 of a self-inflicted wound while hunting, which some claim was a suicide.

Sir Richard F. Burton
John Henning Speke

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