1st Edition

A Walk across Africa J. A. Grant's Account of the Nile Expedition of 1860–1863

Edited By Roy Bridges Copyright 2018
    476 Pages 44 Color & 122 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    476 Pages 44 Color & 122 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Nile Expedition of 1860–1863 was one of the most important exploratory expeditions made in the nineteenth century. The long-debated question of the location of the source of the Nile was answered (despite continuing arguments) and the venture had important historical consequences. Earlier accounts of the expedition have assumed James Augustus Grant to have been no more than the loyal second-in-command to John Hanning Speke, the leader. This new edition of Grant’s 1864 book, A Walk across Africa, provides the opportunity to re-examine his role. The original text has been fully annotated with explanatory notes and also supplemented by extracts from the very remarkable detailed day-to-day journal which Grant kept. Even more unusually, this edition includes reproductions of the whole visual record which he made consisting of 147 watercolours and sketches. This was the first ever visual record of large parts of East Africa and the Upper Nile Valley region. These documentary and illustrative materials have been drawn from the extensive collection of Grant’s papers now in the care of the National Library of Scotland. The Library has co-operated in the preparation of this volume to make possible its special features.

    Grant emerges as a much more impressive and important figure than has previously been recognised. He was a trained scientist and his narrative is a well-organised perspective on the expedition and its activities. His own growing understanding of Africa and of Africans becomes apparent and helps to explain his later activities.

    The editor provides a context to the expedition and its results and this includes a new approach to the understanding of the Nile source problem by exposing the credulity of the way many previous commentators have used Ptolemy’s information and also by suggesting that the problem should be approached in the light of geological and geomorphological as well as historical information. The Introduction in addition discusses Grant’s work in the light of the development of the academic understanding of the history of Africa and of European involvement in the region.


    1. Grant and his Contribution to the Nile Expedition of 1860–1863

    2. Prelude to the Expedition: East African Development to 1860 and the Idea of the Nile Expedition

    3. The Nile Problem: Controversy and Credulity

    4. Grant’s Geographical Work and his Views on the Nile Problem

    5. Grant’s Reputation and the Place of his Work and Exploration: a Survey of the Literature


    Preface [by J. A. Grant]

    I Plymouth to Zanzibar

    II Zanzibar and Bagomoyo

    III Journey to Kazeh

    IV Sojourn at Kazeh

    V Journey to Ukuni and Sojourn at Mineenga

    VI Life in Ukuni

    VII Ukuni to Karagwe

    VIII Karagwe

    IX The Uganda March

    X Buganda

    XI From Buganda to Bunyoro and ‘Captain Speke Proceeds to the Lake Nyanza’

    XII Bunyoro, the Omukama Kamrasi and Embarking on the Nile

    XIII From Bunyoro to an Egyptian Encampment at Faloro

    XIV Life with the Khartoum Traders and News of Speke’s Death

    XV Passage through the Bari Country, Gondokoro and the Meetings with Baker and Petherick

    XVI From Gondokoro to Khartoum by Boat

    XVII ‘A Modern Babylon’: Khartoum

    XVIII From Khartoum to Cairo

    APPENDIX A: List of Personal Kit Taken with us from England for the Expedition.

    APPENDIX B: Letter dated 17 November 1864 from Trenham Reeks to Captain Grant





    Roy Bridges is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Royal Historical Society and Emeritus Professor of History in the University of Aberdeen. After graduating from Keele and London Universities he taught at Makerere University in Uganda before joining Aberdeen. He has written extensively on exploration, especially of Africa, and believes it should be seen in the more general context of Africa’s history as well as that of the societies which sent the explorers. The work and career of Grant (also a product of Marischal College which became part of the University of Aberdeen) provides an excellent opportunity to illustrate this approach.

    A member of the Hakluyt Society since 1964, Roy Bridges has served on the Council on several occasions and had the honour to become President from 2004 to 2010. In 1996 he co-edited with Paul Hair Compassing the Vaste Globe of the Earth, a set of essays celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Society’s foundation including his own account of the Society’s founder, William Desborough Cooley. In 2006 came the Four Travel Journals volume which included his edition of ‘A Dangerous and Toilsome Journey’, the account by the freed slave Jacob Wainwright of the transportation of Dr Livingstone’s body to the coast.

    Professor Bridges lives ten miles north of Aberdeen in Newmachar, of which he has also written a history.