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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 7 April 2011
Like the author of this book I am also very pro H.M Stanley . The book is amazing in its detail and very fair to all involved. He was a great friend to those who those who really knew him . His life was indeed from rags to riches although duty rather than money was his guiding principal . In spite of a few long and uncommon words the author has presented us with a fascinating account based on intensive research . This book inspired me to buy Stanleys autobiography which is brilliant in detail and style and covers his early life so thoroughly.What Stanley did to end the slave trade and his ability to lead and relate to the black africans shows he was ready to judge people by thier character and not by thier social standing. I was aware of the statue of Stanley which lay uncared for in the Congo and feel the right place for this monument to the Worlds greatest explorer truly belongs on the plinth in Trafalgar square as his achievments dwarfed all others who share that special place . Although only Stanley knew the whole truth of that life so much must remain uncertain. I will seek to read other works by this author as he well deserves to award for this book. I wish everyone could read this book as it is an inspiration of what is possible in a life given the most arduous circumstances.
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on 14 January 2010
I love reading about the old time explorers and the so-called Golden Age of Exploration and when I saw this biography of Stanley I snapped it up with high hopes and great expectations - and Jeal exceeded them. This is much more than a nicely-written biography. It is a nuanced bringing to life of a flesh-and-blood human being, with all his frailties complexities, and ultimately his inherent decency, that by the last pages leaves you feeling as though you knew the man from the inside, and sad and sorry that posterity has been so unkind and unjust. As a book it is a fast and compelling read, deeply and convincingly researched and turns the tables on the myths surrounding Stanley's supposed brutality and his later involvement with Belgium's colony-grasping King Leopold. The photo on the cover nicely complements the unfolding of the character within the pages and as I read I found myself going back and looking at it over and over, seeing the hesitancy in the face and eyes and thinking 'you poor trapped sod'.
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on 6 March 2009
"Dr Livingstone, I presume?". One of the most famous quotes in history attributed to Stanley which, in fact, he never said! This book gets behind the man, discovers what made him become the greatest explorer of his generation and also reveals that despite being painted as a racist brute in latter years, he actually despised slavery and treated his fellow African travellers with the utmost respect. Born into a poor Welsh family, educated in a workhouse, emigrated to America in his early 20's, Stanley (Or John Rowlands as he was actually called) had so many adventures that's it's incredible that just one man lived accomplished so much.

Read this book and you'll discover the truth behind Stanley, the reasons he did what he did and if you ever find yourself surrounded by hostile man eating cannibals (you never know!) ask yourself, would I act any differently ?
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on 20 September 2008
This really is a magnificent biography. Well written, gripping and shedding new light on a fascinating & complex subject. Most people will know no more about Stanley than "Dr Livingstone, I presume?", but this book expertly cuts through the many myths and misunderstandings that have dogged Stanley's reputation for over a century. What we are left with is a portrait of a unique individual who certainly managed to keep his head while all around were losing theirs. The excesses for which Stanley took the blame are largely shown to have been the work of others, indeed, the utterly dreadful behaviour of some of his British officers during the infamous 'Rear Column' episode only highlights Stanley's own strength of character.
Like the expeditions it describes -- Long, sometimes harrowing, complex but ultimately totally absorbing.
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"Dr Livingstone, I presume?" That, in a nutshell, sums up almost everything I knew about Henry Morton Stanley - he was an American journalist who set out to discover the missing Dr Livingstone in the wilds of Africa. This this is almost all most people know of him does him a grave disservice. In his day Stanley was probably the greatest explorer alive, renowned not just for his discovery of the missing Dr Livingstone whilst on assignment for a New York newspaper, but for charting the wilds of East Africa and the Congo, confirming the truth about the source of the Nile, his rescue mission of Emin Pasha, his role in the creation of the Congo Free State for King Leopold of Belgium.

Much of what we know to be 'true' of Stanley is in reality very far from the truth. For a start, his real name wasn't Henry Morton Stanley and he wasn't American. That two such basic facts can have been subject to so much confusion over the years only serves to highlight how much the real Stanley has been shadowed by his undeserved reputation in his role as the 'dark shadow' to the saintly Dr Livingstone. That Livingstone was very far from saintly and that Stanley himself played a large part in the creation of the Livingstone legend, only serves to deepen the irony. In effect, as Jeal argues, Stanley has come to be 'a scapegoat for the post-colonial guilt of successive generations'.

In his day Stanley genuinely believed that bringing European trade and civilisation to Africa would benefit all who lived there, that European colonies could serve to enhance and enrich the lives of the African tribes and that colonisation was the only way to destroy the Arab-Swahili slave trade that was devastating so much of East Africa at the time. That much of his explorations only served to pave the way for the atrocities of Leopold's Belgian Congo is surely something the man himself would have been horrified at.

This was a truly excellent biography of a man I knew almost nothing about. Jeal writes with real flair and verve, and Stanley as a character fairly springs off the page. I could hardly put this book down. Jeal had the benefit of access to many of Stanley's personal papers that have been unavailable to previous biographers, and I would feel no hesitation at all therefore in declaring that this will become the definitive book on Henry Morton Stanley.
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on 2 February 2010
Given this as a Christmas present and savoured every page of it.

I had to shed all my pre-conceived ideas of Stanley as an imperialist, racist thug. The author comprehensively takes apart the stereotype image of Stanley that has been his lot for the last 100 years.

A story that leaves you lost in the wonder of Stanley's accomplishments in exploration and at the same time deeply moved at his life long search for love and acceptance.The reader is left with the impression that for all the courage, endurance, and determination that took him to and fro across the continent of Africa, it was in his personal life that he faced his toughest battles.

The scholarly approach of the author, extensive references and bibliography give weight and gravitas to what is an outstanding biography.
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on 8 December 2012
This is both a highly readable biography and a well researched one too.It demolishes the extremely negative accounts of Stanley which had become the basis of the received view, which still is being propagated as in Andrew Marr's 'History of the World'.All too often a biography as thoroughly evidence based as this can be wearisome in its detailed and stodgy writing style but not this one.Strongly recommended
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on 30 July 2013
I have just completed this fascinating book. I agree with many other reviewers that it corrects the "received" view about Stanley, and shows him to be a great leader and very sympathetic to Africa and Africans. I would have given the book 5 stars but I feel that in a few places Tim Jeal has perhaps pushed his own views too hard. For example, he takes great delight in trying to show that Stanley never said: "Dr Livingstone, I presume". But his evidence for denying this statement is very slight. I have read Stanley's own account of the meeting and I find it very convincing, as did most people in Stanley's lifetime, even though they were critical of him in other ways. Moreover, it is not contradicted in anything that Livingstone wrote about the encounter and Livingstone praised Stanley very highly and treated him like a son. In any case, on meeting Livingstone in such unusual circumstances Stanley must have said something. I think I might have said: "You must be Dr Livingstone?" Which is pretty much what Stanley said. On another issue, I have not read Jeal's biography of Livingstone, but he is wrong to say in this biography of Stanley that Livingstone only had one convert in all his missionary work. In the earlier part of Livingstone's work in Africa, and when he had a more settled ministry, he wrote to his father in 1842: "The work of God goes on here notwithstanding all our infirmities. Souls are gathered in continually, and sometimes from among those you would never have expected to see turning to the Lord.Twenty-four were added to the Church last month, and there are several inquirers." But in spite of these reservations I still think it is an outstanding book.
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on 21 April 2009
Tim Jeal's book unravels succesfully the misconceptions about Henry Morton Stanley's reputation. Not being the willing executioner of King Leopold's greedy and murderous policy in the Congo, Stanley comes into light as being a maybe self-contained but also open-minded and humane traveler who could admire Africans for what they were, and not see them as "savages",as most of his contemporaries were likely to do.
Relationwise, Stanley was not very fortunate to fall in love with either the spoiled daughter of a tycoon who did not care what he did or wished to do or the society lady who pressed him to turn to politics, which he basically hated. Furthermore, Stanley chose to hide his poor boy's background from the general public and even from people closer to him.
The real tragic, Jeal writes, lies in the fact that he was seen as the man who naively took with him on the Emin Pasha expedition a bunch of sadistic and racist officers, and the man who cleared the road for the murdering of millions Congolese. Jeal very convincingly refutes the accusations but also has to conclude that the events surrounding Stanley's expeditions ruined his reputation up till now.
A very good read and well documented, too. Jeals findings in the archives on this subject have put Stanley in a new perspective.
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on 21 November 2009
This is the truth about Stanley, Denbigh's most famous son. He was much maligned for his experiences in Africa and blamed, undeservedly. Tim Jeal, through extensive research takes a new perspective and highlights the amazing way this lad rose and fought against all adversities in his life to achieve greatness. An inspirational life story, bringing human insight into the legend.
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