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Travels in the Interior of Africa. Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa. The Journal of a Mission in Africa. How to write a great review. His exploits became iconic among explorers of Africa but while few doubt his courage and his determination to tread where no European had trod, his reputation among Africans was as a "ruthless murderer. As well as providing a potential market and opportunity for imperial expansion, Africa represented the major remaining challenge for extending knowledge of the globe, and was a "focus for the fanciful imaginations of Europe. On the one hand, his legacy contributed to exploitation and colonial domination, on the other it also helped to integrate Africa within the wider economic and cultural context, "for better or for worse, into a general system of knowledge and a world system of economics.
Mungo Park was born in Selkirkshire at Foulshiels on the Yarrow, near Selkirk on a tenant farm which his father rented from the Duke of Buccleuch. He was the seventh in a family of thirteen. Park was educated at home before attending Selkirk grammar school, then, at the age of 14, taking up an apprenticeship with a surgeon named Thomas Anderson in Selkirk. During his apprenticeship he made friends with Anderson's son Alexander, and became acquainted with his daughter Allison, who would later become his wife. In October , Park started at the University of Edinburgh, attending for four sessions studying medicine and botany.
During his time at university, he spent a year in the natural history course of Prof John Walker. After completing his studies, he spent a summer in the Scottish highlands engaged in botanical fieldwork with his brother-in-law, James Dickson. Dickson was a botanist who had begun his career as a gardener and seed merchant in Covent Garden. In January , Park completed his medical education by passing an oral examination at the College of Surgeons in London. Through a recommendation by Banks, whose journeys in the cause of science he admired, he obtained the post of assistant surgeon on board the East Indiaman Worcester ship.
The Worcester sailed to Benkulen in Sumatra in February He also presented various rare Sumatran plants to Banks. In Park offered his services to the African Association, then looking out for a successor to Major Daniel Houghton, who had been sent out in to discover the course of the Niger and had died in the Sahara. Again supported by Sir Joseph Banks, Park was selected. With an annual salary of pounds a year, he was commissioned to travel as far up the Niger River as he could, then to exit via the Gambia.
On June 21, he reached the Gambia River and ascended the river miles to a British trading station named Pisania. On December 2, accompanied by two local guides, he started for the unknown interior. He chose the route crossing the upper Senegal basin and through the semi-desert region of Kaarta. The journey was full of difficulties, and at Ludamar he was imprisoned by the local chief for four months. He escaped, alone and with nothing save his horse and a pocket compass, on July 1, , and on the 21st of the same month reached the long-sought Niger at Segu, being the first European to do so.
He followed the river downstream 80 miles to Silla, where he was obliged to turn back, lacking the resources to go further. On his return journey, begun on July 30, he took a route more to the south than that originally followed, keeping close to the Niger as far as Bamako , thus tracing its course for some miles. At Kamalia he fell ill, and owed his life to the kindness of a man in whose house he lived for seven months.
Eventually he reached Pisania again on June 10, , returning to Scotland by way of America on December He had been thought dead, and his return home with the news of the discovery of the Niger evoked great public enthusiasm. An account of his journey was drawn up for the African Association by Bryan Edwards, and his own detailed narrative appeared in as Travels in the Interior of Africa.
It was extremely popular, has remained in print ever since and is also available online in Project Gutenberg. He appears to have exhibited considerable hostility towards them, firing at anyone he thought looked menacing. Banks wanted to include him in an expedition exploring Australia, but his wife was not keen on this and Park turned the offer down, which alienated him from his former patron.
Park moved to Peebles, where he practiced as a doctor, having also fully qualified as a surgeon in Although Allison remained opposed, this time the salary was more attractive five thousand for expenses and a thousand a year and he began to prepare himself by studying Arabic. His teacher was Sidi Ambak Bubi, a native of Mogador, whose behaviour both amused and alarmed the people of Peebles. In May Park returned to Foulshiels, where he made the acquaintance of Sir Walter Scott , then living near by at Ashesteil, with whom he soon became friendly.
In September he was summoned to London to leave on the new expedition; he left Scott with the hopeful proverb on his lips, "Freits omens follow those that look to them. He sailed from Portsmouth for The Gambia on January 31, , having been given a captain's commission as head of the government expedition. Alexander Anderson, his brother-in-law, was second in command, and on him was bestowed a lieutenancy. George Scott, a fellow Borderer, was draughtsman, and the party included four or five artificers.