Mungo Park, the African Traveler (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
Kenneth Lupton’s Mungo Park the African Traveler is a penetrating and exciting biography of one of the most remarkable explorers in the golden age of African exploration. Lupton, a teacher at a Nigerian university, has been researching the life of Park and his two African explorations for twenty years. Just as Mungo Park was determined to solve the riddle of the Niger River, Lupton decided to probe the character of Park. He first became interested in the explorer in 1913 when he discovered a file in Nigeria of Park’s death as recorded by an old man. This whetted the author’s appetite to read the early works on African exploration and to try to reconstruct when, where, how, and why Park died.
Lupton believed that the explorer’s death was not an isolated event and might be better comprehended if Park’s life and his first journey to Africa were explored. Several important questions were raised—What did Park hope to accomplish? How much information did he have before he left England? What were his reasons for going? What did his explorations accomplish? What type of man was he? And, finally, why was Park’s second expedition so fraught with difficulties and why did Park behave as he did toward the Africans?
Park was born in Scotland in 1771 to a modestly successful farm family. He was educated at home and at a local grammar school. At the age of seventeen he entered Edinburgh University, where he studied medicine and...
(The entire section is 1934 words.)
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