River of the Gods | Candice Millard

Summary of: River of the Gods: Genius, Courage and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile
By: Candice Millard


Embark on a thrilling adventure with ‘River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile’ by Candice Millard. Dive deep into the world of 19th-century exploration and rivalry as two intrepid explorers, Richard Burton and John Speke, set out to unravel the mystery of the Nile’s origins. Witness their hardships, failures, and perseverance as they traverse treacherous terrain, all while overcoming disease, cultural clashes, and personal animosity. In their quest to solve one of history’s most captivating geographical enigmas, they face insurmountable odds and must summon every ounce of genius, courage, and determination.

Unraveling Ancient Mysteries

Discover how the deciphering of hieroglyphs and the search for the source of the Nile captivated Europeans in the 19th century.

It’s 1801, and Napoleon invades Egypt. Alongside soldiers, he brings a team of French scientists who study, excavate, and steal the country’s ancient artifacts. Figuring out the cryptic hieroglyphs becomes the biggest challenge for Egyptologists. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone, with its identical text in three scripts, finally unlocks the puzzle.

Despite deciphering the hieroglyphs, the source of the Nile remains a mystery. Ancient writers like Herodotus speculated about its origin while a Greek trader claimed it originated in the Mountains of the Moon. And many others, including two Roman emperors, tried and failed to find it. It’s the biggest geographical question of the age, and the Europeans are determined to solve it.

They already know about the White and Blue Nile, and a Scottish explorer has found the source of the latter. But the White Nile remains elusive, with the Sudd swamp blocking any boats from sailing upstream. The Royal Geographical Society, founded in London in 1830, realizes that someone needs to trek overland from East Africa.

Richard Burton is the adventurer they choose for the task. He faces hundreds of miles of harsh and unforgiving territory, along with deadly animals, disease, and potentially hostile communities. He must be skilled in cartography, botany, ethnology, and the intricacies of East African languages and cultural customs.

Unraveling ancient mysteries has captivated Europeans in the 19th century. From the deciphering of hieroglyphs to the search for the source of the Nile, the fascination with these puzzles has driven explorers to embark on incredible journeys to uncover the truth.

The Life and Adventures of a Linguistic Enigma

Richard Burton was a cosmopolitan outsider who mastered multiple languages and excelled in every field he set his mind to. He proposed one of history’s greatest expeditions – to find the source of the Nile – and chose John Speke as his second-in-command. Despite their differences, the complicated relationship between these two men drives the story forward.

Journey to the Heart of Africa

Burton and Speke hire a small army of skilled locals to journey into the interior of Africa in search of the source of the Nile. They face the challenge of paying their hired help with currency that’s useful only near the coast, as well as the daunting task of carrying the gear and animals needed for the trip. Just when they’re ready to embark on their quest, the camp is attacked by Somali warriors, leaving Burton and Speke injured and their dream of discovering the source of the Nile shattered.

The Haunted Expedition

Two British explorers, Speke and Burton, reluctantly partner for another dangerous mission to find the source of the White Nile after a failed expedition. Speke harbors resentment towards Burton for questioning his courage and masculinity and for giving their collected specimens to the government. Despite his desire for revenge, Speke joins Burton’s expedition as it offers his only chance of returning to East Africa. The Royal Geographical Society still believes Burton is the best leader, but Speke disagrees and thinks he should lead. The two land on Zanzibar to commence their journey and search for the source of the White Nile in the Great Lakes Region.

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