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The White Nile

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  796 Ratings  ·  83 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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(showing 1-30 of 2,002)
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"I am here, like iron.." --Major-General Charles "Chinese" Gordon

Just outstanding, though I think the "White Nile" part of the story fades quickly after the first 75 pages or so. After that, the figure of General Charles "Chinese" Gordon, and the siege of Khartoum dominates the book. And that's rather amazing when you consider Moorhead's book is crammed with a real League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and at least one remarkable woman: Lady Florence Baker). What a crew! Richard Burton, who comes a
Apr 09, 2011 Eliszard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 cover blurb from The Baltimore Sun calls The White Nile "a truly great work - massive, monumental...a wonderful story of heroism, a superb feat of research...the best book of it's kind," and they are right on all counts.

This is the best kind of history, fleshing out what we thought we already knew and introducing new stories so wonderful and important we can't understand how we'd never heard them before. Beginning with the first major exploration in 1856 and running through the end of centur
Feb 15, 2015 Dylan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, non-fiction
I loved the first third of this book - I picked it up looking for the grand adventure stories of an age of exploration, and that's what the first third gave me. The rest was a more mundane history, lots of information about geopolitics and military campaigns and clashes of culture and personality. (Mostly, it's a catalogue of crimes against humanity. For all the blood spilled, the book might easily be titled The Red Nile.) Moorehead's biases are in clear evidence (or perhaps they're simply the b ...more
May 11, 2016 Al rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-history
This is the companion to Moorehead’s “The Blue Nile”, and it is another very well written book. Moorehead concentrates on the search for the source of the White Nile in Central Africa, and concentrates on the 19th century explorers who endured significant hardships to accomplish this feat. This was an incredibly interesting and exciting read; Moorehead gives notes on each chapter that include a bibliography centered on the topic of the chapter.

The book is divided into four sections; the first se
Sep 27, 2015 Jeffrey rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
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
Oct 14, 2013 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mike Jensen
May 07, 2016 Mike Jensen rated it it was amazing
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 in this part of Africa was motivated by a moral crusade to e
Apr 10, 2008 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 17, 2011 Kent Hayden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 20, 2016 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'The White Nile,' if not the most compelling read, is a thoughtful and fair history of the international exploration and exploitation of Western Africa in the 19th-early 20th Centuries. Morehead's willingness to respect and judge when appropriate helps deal with a history of humanity at it's best and worst. Further, as Africa is again a battlefield for nations and faiths, it's a great reminder of where this round of history started.

Tom Johnson
Apr 27, 2014 Tom Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 08, 2011 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 05, 2012 Raegan Butcher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 04, 2008 Marti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Eugene Novikov
Oct 08, 2015 Eugene Novikov rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, all the more so since it was published in 1960 -- right as Britain was getting the hell out of Africa -- and so is deeply ambivalent about the colonial enterprise, resulting in occasional sheepish self-reflection alternating with descriptions of Nile tribes' "barbarism," of a certain "splendid example of Victorian England in Africa," etc. Very enlightening w/r/t 21st century Sudan (hard to see how this history can lead to anything but centuries of misery and strife), and also super- ...more
Dec 04, 2008 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Be sure to read "The Blue Nile".
Jan 20, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 02, 2013 Sandy rated it liked it  ·  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
Jul 27, 2009 Ebookwormy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, world-africa
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
Are you really into reading about bullshit British explorers and their rampant racism, as told by someone who does not question said bullshit nor the racism? Then you may be crazy hot for this book. I'd love to read about the history of the Nile, but spare me the matter of fact statements of how evvvvverybody knows that in Zanzibar, the domestic slaves would never be brought to market until they were no longer of use in the home. Ugh, the British. Is there anything they're not terrible at?
Feb 18, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Josh Balascak
Jan 13, 2015 Josh Balascak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little outdated now i guess but still a good read. I knew essentially nothing about the history of the discovery of the Nile and the stories of the early European explorers there. Modern historians probably would've been more critical than this book was of the first white explorers exploiting the natives but they were still pretty bad ass guys discovering a brand new world.
Mar 10, 2016 Lynette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this so long ago (in the early sixties) that I hesitate to trust my memory to review it. I mostly remember being totally absorbed by this book and falling hard for non-fiction because of it. It was thrilling and captivating and I loved it.
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
Apr 19, 2014 Tricia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 04, 2010 FiveBooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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:
Sep 19, 2015 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a really good book -- well-written, full of surprising and fascinating information. Was very pleased when I found a used copy of his follow-up, "The Blue Nile."
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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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