Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa

Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa

Book Pages: 416 Illustrations: 12 illustrations, 16 tables, 5 maps Published: August 2000

African Studies, General Interest > Travel, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Mungo Park’s Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa has long been regarded as a classic of African travel literature. In fulfilling his mission to find the Niger River and in documenting its potential as an inland waterway for trade, Park was significant in opening Africa to European economic interests. His modest, low-key heroism made it possible for the British public to imagine themselves as a welcomed force in Africa. As a tale of adventure and survival, it has inspired the imaginations of readers since its first publication in 1799 and writers from Wordsworth and Melville to Conrad, Hemingway, and T. Coreghessan Boyle have acknowledged the influence of Park’s narrative on their work.
Unlike the large expeditions that followed him, Park traveled only with native guides or alone. Without much of an idea of where he was going, he relied entirely on local people for food, shelter, and directions throughout his eventful eighteen month journey. While his warm reaction to the people he met made him famous as a sentimental traveler, his chronicle also provides a rare written record of the lives of ordinary people in West Africa before European intervention. His accounts of war, politics, and the spread of Islam, as well as his constant confrontations with slavery as practiced in eighteenth-century West Africa, are as valuable today as they were in 1799. In preparing this new edition, editor Kate Ferguson Marsters presents the complete text and includes reproductions of all the original maps and illustrations.
Park’s narrative serves as a crucial text in relation to scholarship on the history of slavery, colonial enterprise, and nineteenth-century imperialism. The availability of this full edition will give a new generation of readers access to a travel narrative that has inspired other readers and writers over two centuries and will enliven scholarly discussion in many fields.


“[A] welcome republication . . . . [of a] harrowing sequence of theft, violence, and starvation . . . .” — Jonathan Lamb , Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

“[An] unusually perceptive glimpse of the common life of the African before European imperialism. . . . This edition is well analyzed, with a lengthy introduction and voluminous footnotes that significantly add to an understanding of the original document.” — Library Journal

“[T]ruly fascinating . . . . Kate Ferguson Marster’s excellent edition of Park’s narrative makes available to us—finally—the full text of the second edition, the instructions given to Park by the African Association, the original illustrations, the ‘Negro Song,’ Park’s vocabulary phrase list, Major James Rennell’s essay on geography and his soon-to-be authoritative map of North Africa, and the list of the volume’s subscribers. Praise is due to Marsters for her extremely valuable introduction, lively and informative throughout, and her helpful annotated bibliography at the end of the volume. Marsters does a fine job situating the work in its historical and literary contexts . . . . This edition will prove to be a valuable teaching text, as well as an authoritative and inspirational source for more scholarly work on Mungo Park. — Linda E. Merians , East-Central Intelligencer

“Duke University Press and editor Kate Marsters deserve praise for the publication of this attractive edition of Mungo Park’s travels . . . . The introduction gives a good account of Park’s life and the status of his book as a contemporary bestseller that has earned Park respect as a writer and observer ever since.” — James Searing , International Journal of African Historical Studies

"[A] classic in exploration and travel literature. . . ." — Roy Bridges , Cartographica

"If Travels was a film it would be gripping. As a testament to courage and commitment in the field, it provides value for college courses."
— John Gill , Anthropology Review Database

"Marsters presents a balanced perspective on Mungo Park's writings. . . . Many who have lived and traveled in Africa and other traditional societies can also appreciate Mungo Park's experiences. They provide glimpses into a world that today is almost gone." — Tobias J. Lanz , Journal of Third World Studies

“In a time when the world has grown tame and we have to manufacture our adventures, Mungo Park’s Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa is both an education and a delight. The Africa he entered was uncharted and unknown, the farthest outpost of a truly wild and richly mysterious planet. He was the first European to go there and come back again, and he rewarded his society—and ours—with a geographical and anthropological marvel of a book, an adventure story to cap them all.” — T. Coraghessan Boyle

“Western Sudan . . . means for me an episode in Mungo Park’s life. It means for me the vision of a young, emaciated, fair-haired man, clad simply in a tattered shirt and worn-out breeches, gasping painfully for breath and lying on the ground in the shade of an enormous African tree (species unknown), while from a neighboring village of grass huts a charitable black-skinned woman is approaching him with a calabash full of pure cold water, a simple draught which, according to himself, seems to have effected a miraculous cure.”
  — Joseph Conrad, from Geography and Some Explorers


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Mungo Park (1771–1805) was a Scottish explorer who, at the age of twenty-four, travelled alone to Africa in search of the Niger River. A decade later, he returned to Africa on an ill-fated second mission, this time sponsored by the British government. Though there were no survivors of this journey, Park and the last few members of his expedition were reported to have met their deaths while attempting to follow the Niger to its end. Kate Ferguson Marsters is Assistant Professor of English at Gannon University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Figures and Maps



Note on the Text

Chronology of Mungo Park’s Life

Park's Instructions

Travels in the Interior District of Africa

Title Page




Explanation of African Words

Subscribers’ Names

Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa

Vocabulary of the Mandingo Languages

Questions and Answers That May Be Useful in the West Indies

Appendix: Geographical Illustrations of Mr. Park’s Journey, by Major



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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2537-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2502-4
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