The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia
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.