A Labyrinth of Kingdoms

10,000 Miles through Islamic Africa

Steve Kemper (Author)


"Kemper’s majestic account of Barth’s journey restores the reputation of an explorer who was as passionate about science as he was about rigorous travel. It’s an enthralling adventure, captivatingly told." —Ziauddin Sardar, Times (London)

In 1840 Heinrich Barth joined a small British expedition into unexplored regions of Islamic North and Central Africa. One by one his companions died, but he carried on alone, eventually reaching the fabled city of gold, Timbuktu. His five-and-a-half-year, 10,000-mile trek ranks among the greatest journeys in the annals of exploration, and his discoveries are considered indispensable by modern scholars of Africa. In this historical adventure, the first book about Barth in English, Kemper goes a long way toward rescuing this fascinating figure from obscurity.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • August 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-393-34623-7
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 448 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“An enjoyable account of Barth’s great journey packed with arresting details.” — Tim Jeal, Wall Street Journal

“An astute character study of a relentlessly curious scientific personality.” — Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe

“If you have an ounce of historical exploratory curiosity in your veins, course through this forgotten tale.” — Robert F. Wells, Expedition News

“Heinrich Barth belongs in the ranks of the greatest explorers of Africa. But unlike most of the others, he was less interested in imperial conquest and self-promotion than in the cultures, the peoples, the languages, and the ancient manuscripts that he found there. It’s a pleasure to see a lively, readable biography of him in English at last.” — Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost and To End All Wars

“Let us hope Steve Kemper’s fine study of an extraordinary personality gives Barth the wider, albeit posthumous, audience he so widely deserves.” — Justin Marozzi, Literary Review (London)

“Kemper ably resurrects the unsung and unappreciated accomplishments of this intrepid explorer and clearly shows that his high level of scholarship and attention to detail are relevant and useful today.” — Ben Moise, Post and Courier

“A nicely rounded literary study of an intrepid explorer undone by the cultural biases of the time.” — Kirkus Reviews

“[Barth’s] story has been known primarily to scholars, so this is an important corrective.” — Library Journal

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