Norman Etherington reviews 'The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia' by Dane Kennedy

Norman Etherington reviews 'The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia' by Dane Kennedy

The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia

by Dane Kennedy

Harvard University Press (Inbooks), $49.95 hb, 373 pp, 9780674048478

Dane Kennedy reminds us that not so long ago exploring held an honoured place among recognised professions. Today, though, the job is extinct. For about a century and a half, the business of exploration was most vigorously pursued in Africa and Australia, yet among the thousands of volumes devoted to exploring expeditions on each continent, this is the first to take a comparative approach. My own edited book, Mapping Colonial Conquest: Australia and Southern Africa (2007), concentrated on surveying and cartography rather than on exploring per se. Considering Australia and Africa together enables Kennedy to dispel the fog of romance that still envelops the figure of the explorer and to make some cogent observations on imperialism, the organisation of knowledge, nationalism, and the role of indigenous people in facilitating exploration.

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Published in June 2013 no. 352
Norman Etherington

Norman Etherington

Norman Etherington was educated at Yale University and came to Australia as a lecturer in history at the University of Adelaide in 1968. He is a past president of the Australian Historical Association and Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Western Australia, and continues to write on British Imperial and African History. His recent publications include Missions and Empire (Oxford University Press, 2007), Mapping Colonial Conquest: Australia and Southern Africa (UWA Publishing, 2007), and articles for the American Historical Review and the Journal of African History.

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