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Mastering the NigerJames MacQueen's African Geography and the Struggle over Atlantic Slavery$
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David Lambert

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226078069

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226078236.001.0001

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“Mr. Park’s Book” and the Niger Problem

“Mr. Park’s Book” and the Niger Problem

(p.31) Chapter Two “Mr. Park’s Book” and the Niger Problem
Mastering the Niger

David Lambert

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the proposals MacQueen submitted to the British government for the establishment of a chartered West Africa Company in 1820 and the public case he made in his first major African work. It begins by outlining his West African commercial scheme, before examining the underlying geographical argument that the River Niger terminated in the Atlantic Ocean at the Gulf of Guinea. The chapter compares his solution to the ‘Niger problem’ with alternative theories, and discusses the methods and sources MacQueen used to reach it. MacQueen’s interest in Africa is then related to contexts of geographical research and discovery in the late eighteenth century. The first is the work of the African Association and especially the publication of Mungo Park’s Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa(1799), the most significant and popular travel account of Africa of its time. The second is associated with the broader humanistic traditions and synthetic methods that characterised contemporary geographical writing and that that Robert Mayhew calls ‘early modern geography’. These can be seen not only in MacQueen’s African work, but in his earlier work on Russian geography and the Napoleonic Wars.

Keywords:   River Niger, Early modern geography, Mungo Park, Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa, West Africa, African Association, Exploration, Niger problem

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