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on 3 June 2002
This is the story of James Bruce, an extraordinary Scot (like so many of them!)who in a private capacity and at his own expense set out in the late 18th century to discover the source of the Nile, which had been a quest of rulers and geographers from the earliest times of mankind.
He was following in the steps of a Spanish Jesuit, Pedro Páez, who had been there two centuries earlier. Discoveries not being the primary purpose of Páez's mission, the Jesuits had not given much publicity to the feat (although Bruce knew about it).
The book is a thrilling account of Bruce's travels; of his lengthy stay in Northern Ethiopia, then (as almost always) in the throes of civil war, never knowing whether he'd live to see the next day; and of his return to Europe by the difficult and bandit-infested Nubian desert. Whilst in Ethiopia, among other things he was appointed governor of a border state and later given the command of an Ethiopian cavalry squadron.
Bruce had discovered the source of the Blue Nile, which carries most of the water. The world would have to wait another hundred years for Speke and Burton to discover the source of the White Nile. The two make junction in present day Khartoum.
When Bruce returned to England and Scotland, his accomplishments had been so extraordinary that they were not believed! He was only fully vindicated many years later.
Unless you want to read first-hand the lengthy account of his travels in his book "Travels", this one is highly recommended!
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on 8 April 2001
Amazing adventures of a Scotsman descended from Robert the Bruce in the age of Enlightenment. Describes the academic and erotic exploits of the mid-18th century explorer and adventurer as he undergoes the grueling task of tracing the source of the Nile through danger-fraught Abyssinian territory, and his humiliating reception upon returning to Britain. This book restores his lost reputation and puts his achievements in the spotlight again where they belong.
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on 24 November 2002
"A greater traveller than any of us." That is the tribute paid to James Bruce by David Livingstone who, a hundred years later, followed him to the source of the Blue Nile. Abyssinia, when Bruce went there in 1770, was a place of unimaginable brutality and intrigue, from which no European traveller had returned for 200 years.
Bruce, ostensibly in search of the source of the Nile seems to have had a more secret purpose which Bredin’s strictly scholarly account can only guess at. As a freemason, Bruce’s overriding interest was probably in tracking the whereabouts of the fabulous Ark of the Covenant, which supposedly contained the original stone tablets bearing the Ten Commandments.
This is a tale of battles and intrigue, survival, mystery and romance. Bruce is shipwrecked in the Red Sea, leads a troop of cavalry in a medieval battle, finds the lost Book of Enoch, spends passionate nights with the beautiful Ozoro Esther, the love of his life, and finally tears himself away to return to Europe. All the while he humps along an enormous quadrant and a quantity of other scientific equipment, and records observations of such meticulous accuracy they are useful even today. On the last lap home he once again almost loses his life and all his equipment in the Nubian Desert.
By frequent use of Bruce’s journal and by meticulous following up of all obscurities, Bredin makes this book both enthrallingly immediate and convincingly authoritative. Read it.
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on 28 May 2007
I picked up this book by chance because I read the synopsis and thought it sounded interesting. I must admit to buying it because I thought I was unlikely to find it elsewhere, bearing this in mind it lay upon my shelf for a year before I got round to reading it.
As the subject it little known to us in the 'modern era' (he was a well known cad at the time) the author spends alot of time justifying his personal interest and why more light should be shed upon this adventurous Scot. The book is a basic narrative of both his journey to Abyssinia and the general events that created and subsequently destroyed his reputation. Why Bruce is not better known and put in the ranks of Livingstone and Burton I do not know, but the author proved here that he is a worthwhile subject for what is a literary tail of Bruce's own work.
I recommend this book to anybody interested in eccentric explorer types, mysterious travel literature and most importantly to anyone interested in the history of Ethiopia. With this last fact in mind it is worth noting that few Europeans had been to this exotic and enchanted corner of Africa so this man and this book should be treasured.
As far as the Ark of the Covenant debate goes I think the author clearly believes that Bruce either saw the site or discovered something of value, however, he does not let this detract from the rest of the book.
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on 4 August 2012
One should be careful not to perpetuate misinformation. "Bruce discovered the Nile." "Bruce found the lost Book of Enoch." "A land from where no traveler returned." Bruce did not discover the Nile, or find the Book of Enoch. The Abyssinians led Bruce to the source of the river. Abyssinians have been traveling between the highlands and Egypt since pre-history, since before the formation of ancient Egypt, all along following the course of the river. The Book of Enoch was never lost. Abyssinians had the book in their archives for millennia, and several others not known to Europeans to exist. Abyssinians may not have known that Europeans believed the Book of Enoch was lost. But that does not mean the book was lost. Only two years or so ago, we learned that one of the Ethiopian monasteries posseses the oldest known [illustrated] Gospel.

It is clear that these misinformed views labor from faulty assumptions about "The Dark Continent". Obviously, they ignore well-known facts. Abyssinians maintained contact with Jerusalem and Constantinople at all times. The New Testament recounts the meeting of the apostle Phillip and the Ethiopian eunich, for instance. Abyssinians were present at the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon back when the Early Church was struggling to find its footing. And as of the 1500s, Abyssinians had a chapel in the Vatican. Bruce just happened to be a lucky European to learn about these things. There was nothing to discover. And he was not the first European to be shown the source of the Blue Nile. The Portugese had been there 200 years before him. (Christovao DaGama, Vasco's son, is buried in that land.) And I am unaware of any traveler who went to that country and never came out alive. Just another misinformation. Abyssinians just closed their frontiers to trouble-making Europeans. Blame the Jesuits who had driven the country into a civil war before they were thrown out in 1632. That much you would have learned from Bruce himself. Charles Poncet, a French physician traveled there in the 1670s and left safely. (Read an award winning novel on him, The Abyssinian, by Jean-Christophe Rufin. An excellent read.) That said, James Bruce was a gentleman, a good Scotsman, and a good European. It is only right to call him Abyssinian, like Arthur Rimbauld after him.
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on 2 January 2012
An excellent biography of James Bruce, the first European to accurately map the source of the Blue Nile,which flows from Lake Tana in Ethiopia( Abyssinia).This Scottish laird`s African exploration has never had the media coverage it deserves, this being reserved for the motley travellers who, 100 years later,stumbled upon the source of the White Nile. This remarkable man, though having the useful advantage of wealth and privilege,placed himself in mortal danger on many occasions in his attempt to solve the mystery of the source of the River Nile.
David Livingston, comparing him to subsequent African explorers said " Bruce, a greater traveller than any of us, visited Abyssinia,and having discovered the sources of the Blue Nile,he thought he had solved the ancient problem "
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on 14 June 2015
Good engrossing fascinating read, one question....Where is the Film!!!!
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on 9 February 2004
James Bruce was a great Scot! The story of Bruce is brilliant but it is delivered poorly and biased and balanced against the authors own mediocre achievements. The author could have written a great book as he had a great man to write about yet he sadly under-delivered and gave us only a reasonable read. This work is worth a perusal and is poorly written. Get another book on James Bruce or use this one as a starting point if you are interested.
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