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The White Nile

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  1,023 Ratings  ·  101 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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"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 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Booths, Hay on Wye
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

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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
Jul 24, 2009 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
Apr 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, owned
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
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel
Fascinating, adventurous, gripping narrative and so very racist! Moorhead penned this over 50 years ago, and it shows! It's hard to read some 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 curi
Feb 18, 2012 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
Oct 19, 2007 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
Jan 20, 2015 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
Jun 18, 2013 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
Oct 14, 2013 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
Apr 02, 2014 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
Nov 22, 2015 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.

Kent Hayden
Dec 17, 2011 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
Christopher Saunders
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Classic account of Britain's exploration of the Nile River and expansion into Central Africa. Moorehead recounts famous personages (Burton, Speke, Gordon, Kitchener) and events (Livingston and Stanley's meeting, the Mahdist Wars, Fashoda) with engaging style, commendable objectivity and dry humor. Mine is an illustrated version with dozens of handsome photographs and drawings.
Raegan Butcher
Jun 13, 2009 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 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.
Feb 08, 2011 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.
Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Be sure to read "The Blue Nile".
Nov 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am a big fan of travel writing and have devoured every single book written by Sir Richard Burton as well as many other Victorian era explorers. Moorehead's book, published in 1960, is considered a classic. In it, he covers over fifty years of history in east Africa, tracing the footsteps of European and American adventurers searching for the source of the Nile as they stumble across unknown lakes and mountains, encounter native tribes, and fight against Arab slave traders. It is just the type ...more
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was more about the explorers of the period than specifically the Nile explorers. I also liked the details of each expedition, how they prepared for each voyage both physically and politically. No small detail is left out, and it is interesting to learn how the Royal Society pays for a portion of the trips, sometimes explorers' personal wealth picks up the remainder.

The best part was the latter third of the book, where the Madhi's siege against Gordon, trapped in Khartoum, begins and en
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
Chris Lira
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent, well-written and very readable book about the White Nile, the longer branch that merges with the Blue Nile in Khartoum to firm the Nile River. It starts off with Burton and Speke, Stanley & Livingstone....but then spends too much time (IMO) discussing Gordon, the battles at Khartoum & Omdurman, etc. I felt like the book strayed from its original intent of discussing the exploration of the Nile, so I am k ocking off a star for that.
Jonille Shepherd
Read like a novel. I never knew anything about Africa and it was a great way to learn.
Jim Steele
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as good as Blue Nile but still first class history
Sarah Ryburn
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History at its best. Thrilling.
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great history of the white man's quest to find the source of the Nile. But I was put off by the naked racism of the author. And to think that it was written in the early 60's.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book about this period of history and the clash of European and African cultures. The best part is the description of the siege of Khartoum, Sudan.
Matthew Kuhlman
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 out of 5. I picked up this book looking for some history on Central Africa, Uganda in particular. The stories of the various explorers who are known throughout the region are rich in detail and leaves the reader amazed at the hardships endured in the remote and inhospitable terrain.

While the first third of the book is focused on the exploration and "discovery" of the source of the White Nile, the rest of the book focuses on the lower reaches of the Nile, primarily Sudan. I knew very little o
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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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