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AFRICA. Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa. Being a
Journal of an Expedition undertaken under the Auspices of H. B. M.'s Government in the Years 1849–55. By HENRY BARTH, Ph.D., D.C.L., Fellow of the Royal Geographical and Asiatic Societies, etc., etc. In three volumes. 8vo. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1859.
AFRICA is the paradise of travelers, where, indeed, the tree of life is not found, but the tree of knowledge grows, bearing abundantly its tempting but dangerous fruit. A quarter of the world, second in historical antiquity to only one other, and containing within its limits the cradle of civilization in its three great elements, science, art, and letters, is still, as to most of its ample area, an unknown land; ever inviting the steps of the adventurous by the mystery that vails it, but repelling them by the mighty forces which nature there employs. The Africa of the Greeks and Romans was little more than the narrow belt of the valley of the Nile and the southern shore of the Mediterranean, including Egypt, Carthage, and Numidia. The fountains of the Nile were with them as with us, an unsolved geographical problem, which a more idealistic race than ourselves located in a land of light and beauty, of which the “ Happy Valley” of Rasselas is but a faint copy, and the kingdom of Prester John a coarse caricature; while the “Pillars of Hercules,” guarding the passage to the great unknown ocean, into which the evening sun retired from the world, and where was the famous island of Atlantis, marked the farthest goal of adventurous travel in that direction. Southward lay the regions of trackless sands, the inhospitable frontier of the terrible unknown, where were gorgons, and griffins, and pigmies; and over this the rim of the celestial vault rested steadily upon the shoulders of Atlas.
There is also in history a mediæval Africa, quite distinct in its relations from either that of the classical ages or that of modern times. The early followers of Mohammed made the southern coasts of the Mediterranean an important field of
so in the inhospitad griff
their heroic and zealous propagandism; and a great Saracenic empire was there established and maintained through many centuries, by which the native races were thoroughly established in Islamism, which continues to the present time; and their power and civilization carried beyond the Great Desert, and naturalized in the extensive and fertile regions of Sudan. The history of the Moors is among the most romantic in all the annals of our world, and the Berber race is, both in its history and present status, one of the most remarkable facts in the whole range of ethnography. That these people during the times of the califs penetrated far into the interior of the continent, and there established their power, and built cities, and cultivated the arts, and to some extent the sciences, are very well ascertained facts. The efforts made by travelers during the past hundred years in that region has only partially exhumed and brought to light the knowledge possessed by the Moslem Berbers a thousand years ago ; and of the whole realm of Islam at this time, probably northern Africa, reckoning from the equator, is the strongest province.
Modern Africa is not simply an enlargement of that of the ancients, but another region. Egypt and the Barbary states are indeed portions of that continent, but they are not usually included in the notion of modern Africa. The discovery and partial exploration of tropical and southern Africa occurred about the same time with the discovery of our own continent, both events being portions of the common results of the impulse given to Europe just previously, which was especially directed to maritime explorations by the discovery of the compass and the revival of trade. While Spain, led by the genius of Columbus, directed her efforts to the New World, whither she was followed by England and France, Portugal, then a firstclass maritime power, was pushing her discoveries along the western coast of Africa, till, after passing the “Cape of Storms,” her voyagers passed up the eastern coast to the Red Sea, and opened the passage to India. This preoccupation of the African coast by Portugal has no doubt largely affected the subsequent history of that continent, for in the cupidity and the non-progressive character of that nation have most of the evils which specially afflict Africa originated. By the rise and extension of the foreign slave-trade, in promoting which Portugal was first, as she has been most persistent, legitimate commerce has been kept in abeyance, and the development of the abundant resources of the country hindered ; and instead of the higher civilization which should have resulted from the incoming of Europeans and their wares, a lower and more degraded barbarism has been induced. That trade has produced its bitterest fruits, not upon its immediate victims, but at home, both in the murderous wars which it has instigated, and by grafting the worst vices of civilized countries upon the stock of the native barbarism. Africa, because it was given up to the slave-trade, remained unexplored, except upon the seaboard, until within a comparatively recent period.
The interior of that continent began to excite public attention, especially in Great Britain, during the latter part of the last century. An association for the prosecution of explorations was formed in London in 1788, which seven years later sent out Mungo Park, who entered by the way of Senegambia into the kingdom of Sudan, in the valley of the Kwara, or Niger, where on a second visit, ten years later, he lost his life. Burckhardt penetrated into the same region in 1813, and after him Ritchie and Lyon in 1818. In 1822 was undertaken the famous expedition of Clapperton and Denham, which crossed the Desert from Tripoli, and explored the region to the eastward of that. passed over by Park and those who followed him, discovering Lake Tsad, and traversing parts of the great interior kingdom of Bornu. In 1825 Major Laing visited and verified the existence of Timbuktu, and was followed thither in 1828 by M. Cailliè. Two years later the brothers Lander, one of whom had accompanied Denham and Clapperton's expedition, traversed the course of the Kwara from the point where Park lost his life to the Gulf of Guinea, thus solving a hitherto insoluble mystery, and revealing a mass of highly valuable geographical knowledge. By these various expeditions, extending over nearly forty years, that portion of Africa lying between the Great Desert and the Gulf of Guinea was so far explored that its chief physical features were understood, though most of its interesting and practically useful details were still to be learned. Nor till the publication of the great work of Dr. Barth, named at the head of this paper, could it be said that we possessed any satisfactory account of this truly wonderful region.
Great Dorty year these
We commenced the preparation of this paper with the design of presenting a résumé of all the principal works on African travels made during the last ten years, but have found this single work so full of valuable matter that we have filled our allotted space with discussions of this only. In another paper we hope to present the chief points of interest in the great works of Livingstone, Burton, and Du Chaillu.
In 1845 Mr. Richardson, under the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society and of the British Government, under. took an expedition over the route formerly taken by Denham and Clapperton, of which he published an account a few years after. Two years later another expedition was projected for him, (which, however, did not fully set out till 1849,) in which he was accompanied by two German scholars, Messrs. Barth and Overweg, the former of whom alone survived the perils of the journey, and was permitted to report its results.
Dr. Barth (so we choose to style him, as the term is easy, and doubly his) possessed many valuable qualifications for the work undertaken by him. He was a ripe scholar, especially in the two important departments of philology and natural history, and an enthusiastic traveler. By former journeys about the shores of the Mediterranean, both in Asia and Africa, he had become familiar with the customs of the Arabs, and especially those of the Barbary States. The preliminaries being all completed, and the parties assembled, the final departure for the interior took place near the end of March, 1850. The route lay directly south from Tripoli, through the Hammada desert to Murzuk, in Fezzan. Thence deflecting westward, the travelers passed by Ghat to the country of the Tuwarek—the Bedouins of Sahara—and then turning again to the south, they after six months' journeying reached Agades, in the country of Aïr, or Asben, near the southern border of the Great Desert. We pass rapidly over this party of the story, which occupies full half of the first volume, not on account of any lack of interest in it, but because it is not so directly connected with our precise subject as are other portions of these volumes.
Aïr, or Asben, lies beyond the desert directly southward from Tripoli, forming a kind of midway region between the wastes of Sahara and the fertile country of Sudan. Its people, the Kel-owi, are Berbers, with laws and institutions settled by pre