The White Nile
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The White Nile

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  549 ratings  ·  65 reviews
A thrilling narrative history of the exploration of Africa in the last half of the 19th century featuring larger-than-life personalitiesStanley, Livingstone, Burton, among many othersand intense drama. An immediate bestseller when first published, this may be the most absorbing and enjoyable of all the books about African exploration.

Original publication date 1960
New int

Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 12th 1983 by Vintage (first published 1960)
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A fabulously well-written history of the explorations to find the source of the White Nile in the second half of the 20th century. Burton and Speke and their quarrel on whether or not Lake Victoria was the source of the Nile. The humanitarian Livingstone and the cynical and opportunistic Stanley. Baker and his young Hungarian wife Florence Ninian von Sass, who traveled in Victorian skirts in areas that killed rugged explorers ("She was not a screamer" her husband pointed out). "Chinese" Gordon,...more
The description is accurate. I picked this book up off of a friend's bookshelf and was captivated. The world described is so foreign to our own that it is often difficult to comprehend. Not only is the physical environment alluring, but the cultures encountered by these adventurers are often wild beyond expectation. What is expecially striking though is the determination and will exhibited by these explorers to complete their chosen mission at whatever the costs. One of the most interesting non-...more
Kent Hayden
This is the best of histories. Moorehead has great skills in making these peoples and events alive and relevant. given our 20/20 hindsight we see how the exploitation of Northern Africa leads to the current mess of Arab/Isralie conflict. The Brits, French and German all played a huge part in shaping this political bonfire.

Well written. I also finished his sequel, Blue Nile. Its emphasis on Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and the British influence on Ethiopia was fascinating
Tom Johnson
back in the early seventies I found this book in our local one room library (a very small room at that) - recalling how much I enjoyed it I decided to find a copy of the same 1960 edition - happy to say I found it to be every bit the joy to read as it was 40 years ago - Africa, huge and unruly what to make of it? - the chaos of war remains - slavery remains - religious hatred remains (Christian vs. Muslim vs. lumped together animists) - all the same if not worse - now we can add environmental di...more
I enjoyed reading this book about Africa. While you are learning about the river, you are also learning about the explorers, the people, and some of the history of Africa. A good read.
Raegan Butcher
I'm fascinated by Victorian Age eccentrics and this book is chock full o' them!But equally as interesting are the portraits of African monarchs, quite a wacky bunch.
One of the few places you can find an insightful overview of the history of central Africa. It's an explorer book at heart but SO much more.
Mike Jensen
This truly great book, the classic in the field not written by one of the participants, looks at the search for the Nile's source, maybe 20% of the book, then settles in to look at colonialism and resistance.

We've all been educated to believe that colonialism was as reprehensible as Muslim aggression (such as torturing nuns in a failed attempt to get them to convert to Islam), but what I did not know was that much of British aggression is this part of Africa was motivated by a moral crusade to e...more
Fascinating, adventurous, gripping narrative and so so racist. Moorhead penned this over 50 years ago, but it's still hard to read many passages. For example:

"Normally in central Africa it was the fate of such people to remain in a state of arrested development. In a mysterious way the light of human ambition was extinguished, the villas stayed chained to the Stone Age, and from century to century life revolved in an endless ant-like cycle of crude customs and traditions. There was no curiosity...more
Be sure to read "The Blue Nile".
Alan Moorehead was a renowned Australian journalist who began his career reporting on the Spanish Civil War and the North African campaign during the Second World War. After the war, he turned to narrative history and published one of his most highly acclaimed books, "The White Nile," in 1960.

"The White Nile" follows that great river’s course through the last half of the 19th Century, beginning with Richard Burton and John Speke’s 1856 expedition to find its source and ending with Britain’s supp...more
This is about trying to find the source of the Nile and the exploration of inner Africa (Bunyoro, Bugunda, and Karagwe) in the 1800's by the Bristish. The book describes the men and women who had the courage to brave Africa, it's unknown parts, it's people including the native Africans, the Moslems, Arabs, Turks, and the slave traders.

I like the history and learning more about these explorers(Including Burton, Spekes,the Bakers, Livingston, Gordon, Stanley and more).

Pg. 43. "Normally in Centra...more
Mar 02, 2013 Sandy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandy by: Joy H
Shelves: nonfiction
This book introduced some new ideas to me about Africa and it's peoples and history. Although we've long been aware of the existence of the Nile River and it's surrounding countryside, as late as the mid-1850's we really didn't know much about the area or the origins of the Nile River. It was during the 1850's that the first definitive explorations of the Nile began in earnest. This book chronicles those explorations and the events occurring in that area from the 1850's to the 1890's.

I learned...more
EXCELLENT work about the geography of the Nile basin and it's unique features, exploration of the Nile and it's difficulties, indigenous African people, the foundations of colonialism and all the assorted events and characters that make a narrative historical account so fascinating.

The writing is not impeccable and the author relies on a few phrases I found downright annoying, but I learned a tremendous amount of information. Also, for the first time in my 12ish month African journey, i was able...more
I read this while I was in Tanzania and it provided great background of the history of colonial "discovery" and development of the region. Moorehead did a great job of bringing the story to life and making the history feel like it was personal. He weaves the explorers journals into the text so that they are often telling their own story. He has a great sense of who his characters are and is really perceptive about their motivations.

The book was written in 1960 and there are parts that are dated...more
Lacan Nathalie
آه..والنيل يمضي رحلته دون أن يدري من بحيرة تانا
في حركة لا توحي بطول سَفْرَة أو عناق طويل ما بين الأزرق و الأبيض

آه ..والنيل يمر على الثقافات و تشكله جغرافيات و يعيد صوغ شخصه في كل تلك الشخوص
وآآه..يا مصر ..لو تعلمين
النيل يقسو على اثيوبيا ويعاند السودان ليقبل قدماك و ينحو ما بين معابدك حتي ينتهي عند قاهرتك
الرياح التي كانت مصدر للذعر عند أعالي النيل
تركن هنا للدعة و الرقة
هنا تبدأ مصر الحالمة الرَيّانة
وهنا ينتهي النيل بتغوله وتهوره
لم يقهره أحد .وأنت بحلو المعشر قد قهرتيه..

آآه ..يا نهرِها المتج...more
To Freya Stark

Opening: The Zanzibar that Burton and Speke first saw at the end of 1856 was a much more important place than it is today; indeed, it was almost the only centre of overseas commerce worth the name along the whole East Africa seaboard.

Mutesa of Buganda

Ripon Falls

Murchison falls

Lady Baker

The Sudd

Summer 2013 Egyptian Encounters:

Cleopatra (1963)
3* The Mummy Curse
2* Alexandria: The Last Nights of Cleopatra
4* The Complete Valley of the Kings
1* Ancient Egypt by George Rawlinson
4* Tut...more
This is one of the few books I have from my childhood. Read it many years ago, and have re-read it a couple of times. Timeless. Want to read the Blue Nile, to complete the Nile pairing.
This book opened up an entire new world to me. The exploration of Central and Eastern Africa and the involvement of the British in Egypt, Sudan, and Uganda. Dr. Livingston, Stanley (the American journalist become British explorer), and other exploring greats are discussed in this book. The book begins with the competition between British exploring greats Burton and Speke and Burton’s discovery of Lake Victoria and claim that the Lake must be the source of the Nile. The book ends with Muslim sieg...more
Author Dan Morrison has chosen to discuss Alan Moorehead’s The White Nile on FiveBooksas one of the top five on his subject – The Nile, saying that:

“…The White Nile is about the quest for the source of the White Nile, which runs from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean. It’s fun, rollicking and, at times, hilarious…”

The full interview is available here:
Aug 20, 2007 Stacia rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in explorers, Sudan, and/or Africa
If you like history, this book is a great resource. He does a really good job of painting the personalities in the explorers who were trying to "conquer" East Africa. And he really does a good job of giving you a vivid picture of what it must have been like for them. It's amazing these people lived to tell their tales! Sometimes it got a little dull, but in general, it was interesting. The most interesting parts were the descriptions of what Khartoum was like in the 1800s, a very worthwhile read...more
Mike Sullivan
Didn't think that this book could surpass the companion The Blue does...fantastic book, especially about Pasha Gordon and Khartoum of old
This is a very interesting book about the White Nile from the 1850's to 1900. I really enjoyed the part about the early explorers. They braved terrible conditions and situation in walking thousands of unexplored miles. I had always thought that the slave trade was a west coast situation. I had no idea how many slaves passed through east coast ports.

For me the book dragged a little when foreign governments and politicians started to get involved. The whole Muslim vs Christian conflict showed how...more
Totally absorbing work on the exploration of central Africa & the source of the Nile in the last half of the 19thC. Stanley, Livingston, Speke, Burton, Gessi,Baker, Gordon, Emin and a cast of others who go to Africa for a variety of reasons such as trade, scientific study, evangelization, politics. "A common hunger for adventure certainly bound them all to Africa". Although it took me quite a while to finish this, it certainly wasn't because I wasn't caught up in the telling; more likely bec...more
I first read this book 30 or so years ago, and after recently finishing Tony Jeal's "Explorers of the Nile," which explicitly positioned itself as a successor to the "White Nile," I was ready to re-read Moorehead's wonderful book. Jeal had access to many records unavailable to Moorehead, and indeed clarifies with additional detail many of the explorations undertaken by the Victorians. But, oh what a writer and storyteller is Moorehead. One finishes this book with a great sense of the mystery and...more
Oh, the conflicted feelings I have about this book. This is an interesting look at chapter of history that has captured imaginations for over a century now. While I found the book informative, the first half was definitely a stronger read than the first. The second half I found to be...over-crowded. I think the author would have been better served by choosing a tighter focus, because the latter half of the book in particular is all over the place (literally) and packed with both major and minor...more
In light of this part of the world today, this is one wildly enlightening book. To start, Darfur and Somaliland never had much of a chance to be other than how they are now.

As for the White Nile, the Blue Nile, the Mountains of the Moon, and Khartoum, it's hard for me to express how great this book is. As for the explorers, well, I had to find natal horoscopes for as many as I could to let me further get a grip on what sorts of amazing men these were. (And, a few women, the couple of wives who w...more
An excellent description of the early exploration of Africa surrounding the source of the White Nile river, including the expeditions of Sir Richard Francis Burton and JohnHanning Speke, Sir Samuel Baker and his wife Lady Baker, Sir Evelyn Baring, Doctor David Livingstone, and Henry M. Stanley.

This book was enough to inspire me to collect several of Burton's travelogues from his expeditions to East, West, and Central Africa, as well as Stanley's two-volume 1903 edition of In Darkest Africa which...more
Joshua Horn
Covers this period of exploration well, with good analysis of the leaders and events. It makes more want to study these fascinating stories more.
This book is do wonderful and readable I still have the copy I stole out of my high school library. It is a don't miss true adventure and after reading it go get the blue Nile
By moorehead too
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Alan Moorehead was lionised as the literary man of action: the most celebrated war correspondent of World War II; author of award winning books; star travel writer of The New Yorker; pioneer publicist of wildlife conservation. At the height of his success, his writing suddenly stopped and when, 17 years later, his death was announced, he seemed a heroic figure from the past. His fame as a writer g...more
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