August 23, 2013 19th Century British Expeditions in Africa and Australia Are Subject of Book Discussion

Explorers Viewed These Continents as “Blank Spaces”

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At the beginning of the 19th century, the British Empire that encompassed the interiors of Africa and Australia remained a mystery. Determined explorers met the challenge of opening these continents to imperial influence, as they sought knowledge, adventure and fame – but often experienced confusion, fear and failure. “The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia” (Harvard University Press, 2013) follows these explorations from idea to practice, from intention to outcome, from myth to reality.

Dane Kennedy, author of “The Last Blank Spaces,” will discuss and sign his book on Monday, Sept. 9, at noon in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event, sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Libraries. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Kennedy surveyed dozens of expeditions into Africa and Australia in the 19th century, nothing that these journeys adopted a mode of scientific investigation that had been developed by previous generations of seaborne explorers. They viewed the two continents as “vast uninhabited oceans,” empty spaces that could be made truly knowable only by mapping, measuring, observing and preserving. They found, however, that their survival and success depended less on this system of universal knowledge than it did on the local knowledge possessed by indigenous peoples.

Dane Kennedy is the Elmer Louis Kayser professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University. He is also the author of “The Highly Civilized Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World.”

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PR 13-152
ISSN 0731-3527