The Gates of Africa: Death, Discovery and the Search for Timbuktu

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9780007122332: The Gates of Africa: Death, Discovery and the Search for Timbuktu

The history of the African Association, the world's first geographical society, dedicated to the exploration of the interior of a continent known only through legend and vague report.Africa was once seen as an El Dorado - a gold-encrusted continent of hope and prosperity, where the ancient civilisations of the Phoenicians and the Egyptians might have survived intact.The African Association, the world's first geographical society, set itself the task of revealing the mysteries of the interior of Africa. Founded in 1788 by a group of London-based gentlemen, made famous by the amazing exploits of its adventurers, for forty-three years it was engaged in a quest for geographical knowledge, personal glory, immense wealth and the fulfilment of national ambitions.There are two strands to the narrative. First there are the people who planned and paid for expeditions, the geographers, scholars, politicians, humanitarian activists and sharp-eyed traders, the richest commoner in England and two former prime ministers among them. Theirs is a lively tale of tavern meetings, court lobbying and salon intrigue during one of the most dramatic periods of world history.Then there are the adventurers, a mixed group of ex-cons and social outcasts - British, French, Germans and Americans among them - who went to the magical continent in search of glory and the unknown. They included Mungo Park, whose account of his travels was a bestseller for more than a century, and Jean Louis Burckhardt, discoverer of Petra and Abu Simbel. Each of their journeys was extraordinary, packed with drama and excitement, made notable by geographical discoveries and, with very few exceptions, ending in death.An outstanding account of a unique period characterised by the passion, ambition, courage and sheer sense of adventure of its participants.

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About the Author:

Anthony Sattin is the author of several books, including the highly acclaimed The Pharaoh's Shadow. He reviews regularly for the Sunday Times and also writes stories for the travel section of that newspaper. He contributes to a number of other newspapers and magazines including the Telegraph, the Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller and Marie Claire.

From Publishers Weekly:

Journalist and travel writer Sattin (The Pharaoh's Shadow, etc.) pens a remarkable history of the African Association, the world's first geographical society. Formed in London in 1788 by wealthy patrons who believed that Africa needed to be explored and mapped more fully, the Association aimed to find the fabled city of Timbuktu, discover the course of the Niger and locate the source of the Nile. Using a wealth of historical and biographical materials, Sattin provides exciting-and sometimes ironic-accounts of the amazing and often doomed travels of extraordinary adventurers supported by the Association, including Mungo Park, the first European to find the Niger; Gordon Laing, who reached Timbuktu after being shot by a local tribesman only to find that the city was in shambles; and Jean Louis Burckhardt, who became fluent in Arabic and who, disguised as Ibrahim ibn Abdullah, became one of the first Europeans to journey to Mecca and the first since the Crusades to see the ancient city of Petra. Sattin delivers a lively and fascinating study of the Association, about which little has been previously written, and shows how the achievements of the men and their missions not only expanded the knowledge of Africa, but also left a "lasting legacy" in the fields of exploration and geographical investigation.
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Anthony Sattin
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (2003)
ISBN 10: 0007122330 ISBN 13: 9780007122332
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