Reference Entry

Barth, Heinrich 1821–1865 German explorer of western and northern Africa.

Elizabeth Heath

in Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition

Published in print January 2005 | ISBN: 9780195170559
Barth, Heinrich 1821–1865 German explorer of western and northern Africa.

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During the mid-nineteenth century, Heinrich Barth traveled widely in northern Africa and the central Sudan and authored some of the earliest and most comprehensive works on North and West African history. The son of a German businessman, Barth earned a degree in classics and linguistics at the University of Berlin. He completed his studies in 1845 and subsequently spent two years traveling in northern Africa, where he perfected his Arabic and kept a detailed diary of his trip. After a disappointing experience teaching in Germany, he accepted an offer to join a British expedition to the central Sudan. At first led by James Richardson, the expedition left Tripoli in 1850. Within a year, however, Richardson died and Barth assumed command. During the next four years, Barth led the group through present-day Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, and Mali and visited all of the major towns, including Zinder, Sokoto, Tombouctou, and Kano. The group returned to England in 1855, where Barth recorded his memoirs of the journey. This work provided the basis for a five-volume series—Travels and Discoveries in North and Central Africa—chronicling the history and linguistics of the areas he visited. Although some of his remarks on the Sokoto Caliphate have recently been challenged, Barth’s work remains an invaluable resource for African scholars.

Reference Entry.  227 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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