Paths Without Glory


Paths Without Glory

Richard Francis Burton in Africa

James L. Newman

316 pages


December 2009


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

September 2011


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About the Book

Few people have garnered so much enduring interest as Sir Richard Burton. A true polymath, Burton is best known today for his translations of the Kama Sutra and Arabian Nights. Yet, Africa stood at the center of his adult life. The Burton-Speke expedition (1856–59) that put Lake Tanganyika on the map led to years of controversy over the source of the White Nile. From 1861 to 1864 Burton served as British consul in Fernando Po and traveled widely between Ghana and Angola. He wrote prodigiously and contributed some of the first detailed ethnographic accounts of Africa’s peoples. In many ways, however, Africa proved to be Burton’s undoing. Injuries and sickness sapped his strength, he made enemies in high places, and, ironically, even the discovery of Lake Tanganyika worked to his disadvantage. Increasingly frustrated and bitter, he turned to alcohol as a frequent remedy.In this fascinating story of the relationship between a man and a continent, geographer James L. Newman provides an intimate portrait of Burton through careful examination of his journals and biographers’ rich analyses. Delving deepest into Burton’s later life and travels, Newman pinpoints the thematic mainstays of his career as a diplomat and explorer, namely his strong advocacy of aggressive imperial policies and his belief that race explained crucial human differences. Historians and scholars of the golden age of empire, as well as armchair adventurers, will not only discover what defined this famously enigmatic figure, but venture, themselves, into the heart of mid-nineteenth-century Africa.

Author Bio

James L. Newman is a professor emeritus of geography at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. His books include Imperial Footprints: Henry Morton Stanley’s African Journeys (Potomac Books, Inc., 2006), The Peopling of Africa, Eliminating Hunger in Africa with Daniel Griffith, and Contemporary Africa with C. Gregory Knight. He lives in Syracuse, New York.


“At last an authority on Africa has taken up the story of Richard Burton in Africa. James L. Newman provides us with a richly informative account of Burton’s African journeys, enlivened by a crisp and engaging prose style.”—Dane Kennedy, author of The Highly Civilized Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World

“I thought James L. Newman’s book about Henry Morton Stanley was wonderful—Paths Without Glory, his biographical account of Richard F. Burton, is better. Newman’s primary focus is on Burton’s relationship with Africa and Africans, yet throughout his prolific literary output, the famous English explorer is shown to be a not so benevolent racist, as well as a congenitally disgruntled and unhappy traveler. This book is hard to put down.”—Sanford H. Bederman, Professor Emeritus of Geography, Georgia State University, and past president and fellow, Society for the History of Discoveries

“Historians and scholars of the golden age of empire, as well as armchair adventurers, will not only discover what defined this famously enigmatic figure, but venture themselves into the heart of mid-nineteenth-century Africa.”—History Magazine

“Key to an understanding of [Africa’s] history.”—Midwest Book Review

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