Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Francis Burton in Africa
Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Francis Burton are two monumental figures in the history of African travel writing. Burton Traveled to Africa in in the mid sass’s seeking the source of the Nile River, and Roosevelt traveled on a safari in search of big game for the US National Museum at Washington. Both published accounts of their Journeys, sharing significant information about the natives, the scenery, and many other factors of their visit.
The two authors focused considerably on the elements of the British Empire that was quickly expanding in Africa, the images of ours on the continent, as well as the conservation of where they traveled. Upon reading Theodore Roosevelt African Game Trails, we are provided with a unique insight to the land and the people of Africa, and how they affect his views on empire, tourism, and conservation. Roosevelt quickly makes it apparent that he believes the African people are barbarous savages. Their looks, their cultural ideals, and customs are shed in a most negative and condescending light.
He even describes a group’s cultural tradition as a “strange, crippling and pointless punishment”l that he will never understand. Roosevelt also is quick to assert his belief that the growing British Empire in Africa is a highly beneficial implementation, and his negative view of the people and culture help to display this. He notes in the beginning of his writing, “In the continents new to people of European stock, we have seen the spectacle of a high civilization all at once thrust into and superimposed upon a wilderness of savage men and savage beasts. 2 He continues to explore his idea that it is right for the Englishmen and other White’ men to work heartily together and do scrupulous Justice on the natives, since the whites are masterful leaders. He even notes that the newly constructed railroad served as “the embodiment of the eager, masterful, materialistic civilization of today. “3 Essentially, Roosevelt is eager in his beliefs that British Empire is beneficial for the progression and well being of the African people, who are beasts.
However, the remainder of his writing seems to focus on the majestic aspect of the continent: The landscape and the animals. He uses words such as beautiful, a wonderland, and picturesque to describe what he is experiencing around him. He is speaking about the incalculable benefit the missionaries work has in Africa, and even clears, “Every effort should be made to favor the growth of a large and prosperous white population in Africa. “4 Essentially, he appears to dub the continent as an acceptable place for tourism, which may deem evident since he himself is choosing to travel there on a vacation.
He even places the animals in such majesty and rarity that his whole purpose for the trip is to bring them back to the United States to display for the general public. He is then quick to note that he wants to kill the animals in a responsible way and “conserve” all the species’ well being. He appeared o commend the idea that “All civilized governments are now realizing it is their duty nerve Ana tenure to preserve, unarmed, tracts AT wool nature, Walt toner ten wool things the destruction of which meaner the destruction of the charm of wild nature. 5 Obviously, contrasting his view of the culture’s conservation, we can see that the conservation of the land and animals are very important to Roosevelt, since he deems it as a “strange and attractive spectacle. “6 Richard Burton ultimately shared some of the same ideals that Theodore Roosevelt possessed, such as the savagery of the Africans. He speaks of one of his men as a “bull headed negro, low-browed, pig-eyed, pug-nosed and provided by nature with that breadth and that power, that massiveness and muscularity of Jaw, which characterize the most voracious carnivores.
He is one the ugliest and vainest of the party: his attention to his toilette knows no limit. “7 However, as he goes more in depth along his Journey, he seems to take a more sympathetic stance towards the people themselves. Instead of seeing them solely as an incompetent obstacle, he represents them as a challenge, but also a source for an abundance of knowledge. He utilizes a lengthy span of writing to speak of the psychology of Eastern Africa; he touches on how they use their money, how they treat one another, their thought processes, their characteristics and personalities, and much more.
Whether bad or good, he desires to show what kind of people they really are, rather than how they look on the surface. Although much of this writing appears to deride the people, he does not quite speak of how they ought to change like Roosevelt does extensively. In these descriptions, Burton touches on the subject of British Imperialism, and actually states that The African intellect is unprepossessing and unfit for change. “8 Therefore, his opinions of British Empire and conservation seem to differ moderately from Roosevelt.
He does not speak in opposition of the British influence; however, he denotes that it is simply not a possibility in Africa at the time. This could possibly be a result of the two writers traveling at different time periods. With this though, along with his noted observations of the habits, lifestyles, and actions of the African People, he makes it apparent that the conservation of Africa is obviously of at least some importance to him. Author Mary Louise Pratt provides an interesting insight to these two traveler’s ideas.
Her book, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transfiguration, investigates the way in which travel writing has constructed an image of the world beyond Europe. She ultimately appears to conclude that travelers often emphasize the rarity and importance of what is held before them since the pleasure of the reading essentially constitutes the value and significance of their work. They possess a “monarch-of-all-l- survey’, meaning that they take what they see and are free to evaluate it however hey so choose, assuming obviously that their opinions are the utmost correct and cannot be contradicted.
What Pratt notes is, that, “Discovery in this context consisted of a gesture of converting local knowledge into European national and continental knowledge associated with European forms and relations of power. “9 This way of approaching Burton and Roosevelt writing is interesting, because it provides us with the idea that these explorers held a feeling of superiority toward the people they encountered and their appropriation of the landscape through their descriptions.
It erectly places Theodore Roosevelt in the realm of an imperialist, since he represents the value of the discovery for the “home culture, at the same time as its stencil nacelles suggest a need Tort social Ana material Intervention ay ten none culture. ” 10 But through Prate’s writing, it sheds a brighter light towards imperialism upon Burton that I was not fully aware of. She considerably suggests that Burton, like Roosevelt, was undoubtedly a “prisoner” of his home culture, and he could only examine the African through the shield of his culture.
Roosevelt and Burton both present a unique and description account of their erroneous to Africa. Although there for different reasons, it appears of the utmost importance to them that they provide their readers with a complete description of all that they encounter. Varying from one another, both authors present their ideals on the British Empire in Africa, the conservation of Africa, as well as tourism in Africa. Roosevelt and Burton both appear in favor of tourism and conservation, Mary Louise Prate’s writing aids in displaying that both the travelers favor the British Empire’s influence upon the supposed “savages” of Africa.