African Exploits: The Diaries of William Stairs, 1887-1892
Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Stairs (1863-1892) attended the Royal Military College in Kingston before being commissioned in the British army. Wearied of peacetime soldiering, he volunteered in 1887 to participate in Sir Henry M. Stanley's final trans-African expedition to rescue Emin Pasha, the last of "Chinese" Gordon's lieutenants in the Sudan. The expedition emerged almost three years later in Zanzibar, a reluctant Pasha in tow, having left a trail of havoc and suffering behind it. Stairs promptly volunteered for a second expedition in Africa to secure Katanga for King Leopold II of the Belgians as part of the controversial Congo Free State. Stairs was a cruel leader, condoning decapitation and mutilation to attain colonial ends. The expedition succeeded, but at the price of suffering, destruction, and his own life: Stairs died of malaria at the end of the expedition at the age of twenty-eight. Few diaries of the period convey better than Stairs's the nature and course of imperialist expeditions in Africa in the nineteenth century and the psychological and moral corruption caused by absolute power. Stairs's diaries of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition present a candid, personal account of the long and arduous venture, including a very unflattering assessment of Stanley, whom Stairs described as cruel, secretive, and selfish. The Katanga diaries, written as an official company account of the expedition, were intended partly to provide information useful to those intent upon exploiting the African hinterland. African Exploits is the most complete published collection of Stairs's diaries, with a new translation of the Katanga diaries, which no longer exist in the original English. Roy MacLaren's introduction and conclusion set Stairs's adventures in the colonial context of the era and analyse the psychological effects of his experiences.
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Africa ahead Albert Nyanza ammunition Arabs arrived Bagamoyo bananas Barttelot Belgian boat Bodo Bodson Bolobo Bonny British Bunkeya bush camp canoe Captain caravan chap chief coast Congo Free corn crossed December desert elephant Emin Pasha Emin Relief Expedition Emin's Equatoria European feel fever fired fowls Friday German getting goats guns Henry Reed hope huts Jameson Jephson June Katanga killed Lake Albert Lake Tanganyika leave Leopold letter loads London Mackinnon Manyuema Maxim gun meat miles missionaries Moloney Monday months morning Msiri natives Nelson never night Nova Scotia officers one's Parke porters reached rear column rifles river route Saturday sent shot sick slaves soon sort Soudanese Stairs Stanley Stanley Pool Stanley's station steamer Sudan Sunday things Thursday Tippu Tib to-day Tuesday Uganda Ugarrowwa's ulcers village Wadelai Wednesday Yambuya yesterday Zanzibar