Wargaming the Exploration and Colonisation of Tropical Africa by European powers from 1850 until 1918.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

African library 1: Sir Samuel Baker

An elephant hunt from Sir Samuel Baker's The Albert Nyanza

One of the things that keeps me focussed on a wargaming project is reading books about the subject.  Of course, the problem for me is that reading a book on a particular subject often then makes me want to start a wargaming project!  So I am going to write the occasional post about my Darkest Africa library, which is not that extensive, but provides enough source material to keep me occupied with potential projects.

I will start with Sir Samuel and Florence Baker as the two were, in every sense, inseperable.   I wrote about them in the blog previously so have nothing to add here about their lives.  I have three books relating to them.

The first one I read is Pat Shipman's To the Heart of the Nile (2004).  This is a wonderful introduction to the story of the Bakers and gives Florence a much greater part than is usual in accounts of their activities.  It is, however,  rather peculiarly full of invented dialogue between them which doesn't damage the narrative drive of the book but does impact on its credibility.  Still, very enjoyable and it contains a good number of (small) illustrations.

Lovers on the Nile (1980) by Richard Hall tells the same tale but in a more economical and spare manner.  I can't help feeling that the titles of the two books should be swapped to better reflect their contents!  It has eight pages of illustrations in the centre.

My third book is Baker's The Albert Nyanza Great Basin of the Nile and Exploration of the Nile sources (1866).  Based on his diaries it is a fascinating insight into the experience of a Victorian explorer cut off from all but his own (and his redoubtable wife's) devices.  My copy is the 1913 edition and, somehow, these older books add to the sense of adventure when reading them!  This book also contains many illustrations of engravings based on Baker's own sketches.

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