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The Sad Story of Burton, Speke, and the Nile; or, Was John Hanning Speke a Cad? Looking at the Evidence

About the Author

Bliss Carnochan

Bliss Carnochan is the Richard W. Lyman Professor of Humanities, Emeritus, and was director of the Stanford Humanities Center from 1985 to 1991. Carnochan's research and writing has focused on 18th-century literature in its cultural and historical settings. Other research interests: prison literature; Victorian culture; American higher education.

 

Here is a wonderful review of Carnochan's latest book, Scotland the Brave: A Scottish-American Mosaic:  http://www.scottishreviewofbooks.org/index.php/back-issues/2013-03-27-15-25-26/volume-nine-issue-three/568-shopping-for-tartan-richard-holloway

Stanford University Press
2006

This is a study of the famous controversy between Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke, fellow explorers who quarreled over Speke's claim to have discovered the source of the Nile during their African expedition in 1857-59. Speke died of a gunshot wound, probably accidental, the day before a scheduled debate with Burton in 1864. Burton has had the upper hand in subsequent accounts. Speke has been called a “cad.” In light of new evidence and after a careful reading of duelling texts, Carnochan concludes that the case against Speke remains unproven-and that the story, as normally told, displays the inescapable uncertainty of historical narrative.