In the late 18th century, the river Niger was to Europeans a two-part geographical problem: in which direction did it run, and where did it terminate? The first was solved by explorer Mungo Park in 1796. But Park’s death in 1806 in failing to solve the second prompted other expeditions to determine the cause of his death and to trace the Niger’s course to its end. Charles Withers examines Park’s achievements, the expeditions that followed him, and his enduring ‘afterlife’ as an explorer. The second Niger question was solved by exploration in 1830, years after it had been solved by ‘armchair geographers’ who never set foot in Africa.

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