A Walk across Africa: J. A. Grant's Account of the Nile Expedition of 1860–1863, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A Walk across Africa

J. A. Grant's Account of the Nile Expedition of 1860–1863, 1st Edition

Edited by Roy Bridges


446 pages | 44 Color Illus. | 122 B/W Illus.

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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.

Table of Contents


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 KitTaken with us from England for the Expedition.

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




About the Editor

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.

About the Series

Hakluyt Society, Third Series

Routledge is pleased to be the publisher for the Hakluyt Society.

The Hakluyt Society has for its object the advancement of knowledge and education, particularly in relation to the understanding of world history. The society publishes scholarly editions of primary sources on the 'Voyages and Travels' undertaken by individuals from many parts of the globe. These address the geography, ethnology and natural history of the regions visited, covering all continents and every period over the last two thousand years. Such texts, many previously available only in manuscript or in unedited publications in languages other than English, are the essential records of the stages of inter-continental and inter-cultural encounter.

Established in 1846, the Society has to date published over 350 volumes. All editions are in English. Although a substantial number of the Society's past editions relate to British ventures, with documentary sources in English, the majority concern non-British enterprises and are based on texts in languages other than English. Material originally written in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French or Dutch has regularly appeared, material in Russian, Greek, Latin, Ethiopic, Chinese, Persian or Arabic occasionally.

All editions contain an introduction and scholarly annotation, giving both the general reader and the student a degree of assistance in understanding the material and providing guidance on the relevance of the episodes described, within the context of global development and world history. Volumes are often generously furnished with maps and contemporary illustrations.

Information about the Society may be obtained from the Administrative Assistant at the following address:

Hakluyt Society, c/o Map Library, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DG, UK

Email: office@hakluyt.com

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Africa / Central
HISTORY / Africa / East
HISTORY / Africa / North
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
HISTORY / Expeditions & Discoveries
HISTORY / Maritime History & Piracy