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Sir Henry Morton Stanley
File:Henry Morton Stanley.jpg
Journalist and explorer
Born January 28, 1841(1841-01-28)
Denbigh, Wales, United Kingdom
Died May 10, 1904 (aged 63)
London, England, United Kingdom

Sir Henry Morton Stanley, GCB, born John Rowlands (28 January 1841 – 10 May 1904), was a Welsh journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of Africa and his search for David Livingstone. Stanley is often remembered for the words uttered to Livingstone upon finding him: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?", although there is some question as to authenticity of this now famous greeting. His legacy of death and destruction of the African Congo is considered an inspiration for Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, detailing atrocities inflicted upon the natives.[1]


Early life[]

Stanley was born in Denbigh, Wales. At the time, his mother, Elizabeth Parry, was 19 years old. According to Stanley himself, his father, John Rowlands, was an alcoholic[citation needed]; there is some doubt as to his true parentage.[2] His parents were unmarried, so his birth certificate refers to him as a bastard and the stigma of illegitimacy weighed heavily upon him all his life. He was brought up by his grandfather until the age of five. When his guardian died, Stanley stayed at first with cousins and nieces for a short time, but was eventually sent to St. Asaph Union Workhouse for the poor, where overcrowding and lack of supervision resulted in frequent abuse by the older boys. When he was ten, his mother and two siblings stayed for a short while in this workhouse, without Stanley realising who they were. He stayed until the age of 15. After completing an elementary education, he was employed as a pupil teacher in a National School. In 1859, at the age of 18, he made his passage to the United States in search of a new life. Upon arriving in New Orleans, he absconded from his boat. According to his own declarations, he became friendly with a wealthy trader named Stanley, by accident: he saw Stanley sitting on a chair outside his store and asked him if he had any job opening for a person such as himself. However, he did so in the British style, "Do you want a boy, sir?" As it happened, the childless man had indeed been wishing he had a boy of his own, and the inquiry led not only to a job, but to a close relationship.[3] The youth ended up taking Stanley's name. Later, he would write that his adoptive parent had died only two years after their meeting, but in fact the elder Stanley did not die until much later in 1878.[4] In any case, young Stanley assumed a local accent and began to deny being a foreigner.

Stanley participated reluctantly in the American Civil War, first joining the Confederate Army participating in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.[5] After being taken prisoner he promptly deserted and joined the Union. He served in the Navy but eventually deserted again.

Following the Civil War, Stanley began a career as a journalist. As part of this new career, Stanley organised an expedition to the Ottoman Empire that ended catastrophically when Stanley was imprisoned. He eventually talked his way out of jail and even received restitution for damaged expedition equipment. This early expedition may have formed the foundation for his eventual exploration of the Congo region of Africa.

File:Stanley Persepolis graffiti.JPG

Stanley's graffiti at Persepolis, Iran

In 1867, Stanley was recruited by Colonel Samuel Forster Tappan (a one-time journalist) of the Indian Peace Commission, to serve as a correspondent to cover the work of the Commission for several newspapers. Stanley was soon retained exclusively by James Gordon Bennett (1795–1872), founder of the New York Herald, who was impressed by Stanley's exploits and by his direct style of writing. This early period of his professional life is described in Volume I of his book My Early Travels and Adventures in America and Asia (1895). He became one of the Herald's overseas correspondents and, in 1869, was instructed by Bennett's son to find the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, who was known to be in Africa but had not been heard from for some time. According to Stanley's account, he asked James Gordon Bennett, Jr. (1841–1918), who had succeeded to the paper's management after his father's retirement in 1867, how much he could spend. The reply was "Draw £1,000 now, and when you have gone through that, draw another £1,000, and when that is spent, draw another £1,000, and when you have finished that, draw another £1,000, and so on — BUT FIND LIVINGSTONE!" In actuality, Stanley had lobbied his employer for several years to mount this expedition that would presumably give him fame and fortune.

File:Stanley - Comment… 11.png

"Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" A contemporary illustration.

File:Henry Morton Stanley, 1872.jpg

1872 Carte de visite

Finding Livingstone[]

Stanley travelled to Zanzibar in March 1871 and outfitted an expedition with the best of everything, requiring no fewer than 200 porters. This 7000-mile expedition through the tropical forest became a nightmare. His thoroughbred stallion died within a few days after a bite from a Tsetse fly, many of his carriers deserted and the rest were decimated by tropical diseases. To keep the expedition going, he had to take stern measures, including flogging deserters. Many missionaries of the day practiced tactics no less brutal than his, and Stanley's diaries show that he had in fact exaggerated the brutal treatment of his carriers in his books to pander to the taste of his Victorian public. Some recent authors suggest that Stanley's treatment of indigenous porters helps to refute his reputation as a brutal criminal.[6]. However, statements by contemporaries of Stanley like Sir Richard Francis Burton, who claimed "Stanley shoots Africans as if they were monkeys," paint a very different picture.[7] Stanley found Livingstone on 10 November 1871, in Ujiji near Lake Tanganyika in present-day Tanzania, and may have greeted him with the now famous, Dr Livingstone, I presume?. This famous phrase may be a fabrication, as Stanley tore out of his diary the pages relating to the encounter.[8] Even Livingstone's account of the encounter fails to mention these words. However, a summary of Stanley's letters published by The New York Times on 2 July 1872, quotes the phrase.[9] The Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography both quote the phrase without questioning its validity. However, Tim Jeal argues in his biography that Stanley invented it afterwards because of his 'insecurity about his background.'[10]

The Herald's own first account of the meeting, published 2 July 1872, also includes the phrase: "Preserving a calmness of exterior before the Arabs which was hard to simulate as he reached the group, Mr. Stanley said: -- `Doctor Livingstone, I presume?' A smile lit up the features of the hale white man as he answered: `Yes, that is my name' ..."

Stanley joined Livingstone in exploring the region, establishing for certain that there was no connection between Lake Tanganyika and the River Nile. On his return, he wrote a book about his experiences : How I Found Livingstone; travels, adventures, and discoveries in Central Africa.[11] This brought him into the public eye and gave him some financial success.

Researching the River Congo[]

File:Advance Column of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition 1890.jpg

Henry M Stanley with the officers of the Advance Column, Cairo, 1890. From the left : Dr. Thomas Heazle Parke, Robert H. Nelson, Henry M. Stanley, William G. Stairs, and Arthur J. M. Jephson

In 1874, the New York Herald, in partnership with Britain's Daily Telegraph, financed Stanley on another expedition to the African continent. One of his missions was to solve a last great mystery of African exploration by tracing the course of the River Congo to the sea. The difficulty of this expedition is hard to overstate. Stanley used sectional boats to pass the great cataracts separating the Congo into distinct tracts. After 999 days, on August 9, 1877, Stanley reached a Portuguese outpost at the mouth of the River Congo. Starting with 356 people, only 114 had survived of which Stanley was the only European.

He wrote about his trials in his book Through the Dark Continent.[12]

Claiming the Congo for the Belgian king[]

Stanley was approached by the ambitious Belgian king Leopold II, who in 1876 had organised a private holding company disguised as an international scientific and philanthropic association, which he called the International African Society. The king spoke of his intentions to introduce Western civilization and bring religion to that part of Africa, but didn't mention he wanted to claim the lands. Stanley returned to the Congo, negotiated with tribal chiefs, and obtained fair concessions (that were later falsified to his advantage by the king). But Stanley refused to impose treaties on the chiefs that would cede sovereignty over their lands. He built new roads to open the country, but this also gave advantage to the slave traders. When Stanley discovered that the king had other plans, he remained on his payroll.

In later years, he spent much energy defending himself against charges that his African expeditions had been marked by callous violence and brutality. Stanley's opinion was that "the savage only respects force, power, boldness, and decision." Stanley would eventually be held responsible for a number of deaths and was indirectly responsible for helping establish the rule of Léopold II of Belgium over the Congo Free State. In addition, the spread of African trypanosomiasis across central Africa is attributed to the movements of Stanley's enormous baggage train [13] and the Emin Pasha relief expedition.

File:Henry M. Stanley 1891.jpg

Henry Stanley and party standing on the back of an observation car at Monterey, California, March 19, 1891.

In 1886, Stanley led the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition to "rescue" Emin Pasha, the governor of Equatoria in the southern Sudan. King Leopold II demanded that Stanley take the longer route, via the Congo river, hoping to acquire more territory and perhaps even Equatoria. After immense hardships and great loss of life, Stanley met Emin in 1888, discovered the Ruwenzori Range and Lake Edward, and emerged from the interior with Emin and his surviving followers at the end of 1890. (Turnbull, 1983) But this expedition tarnished Stanley's name because of the conduct of the other Europeans: British gentlemen and army officers. An army major was shot by a carrier, after behaving with extreme cruelty. James Jameson, heir to an Irish whiskey manufacturer, bought an eleven-year old girl and offered her to cannibals to document and sketch how she was cooked and eaten.[citation needed] Stanley only found out when Jameson had died of fever. Previous expeditions had given Stanley satisfaction, but this one had only brought disaster.

On his return to Europe, he married Welsh artist Dorothy Tennant, and they adopted a child, Denzil. Stanley entered Parliament as Liberal Unionist member for Lambeth North, serving from 1895 to 1900. He became Sir Henry Morton Stanley when he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1899, in recognition of his service to the British Empire in Africa. He died in London on 10 May 1904; at his funeral, he was eulogised by Daniel P. Virmar. His grave, in the churchyard of St. Michael's Church in Pirbright, Surrey, is marked by a large piece of granite inscribed with the words "Henry Morton Stanley, Bula Matari, 1841–1904, Africa". Bula Matari, which translates as "Breaker of Rocks" or "Breakstones" in Kikongo, was Stanley's name among locals in Congo. It can be translated as a term of endearment: for as the leader of Leopold's expedition, he commonly worked with the labourers breaking rocks with which they built the first modern road along the Congo River.[14] It can also be translated in far less flattering terms, and it was suggested by Adam Hochschild that while Stanley understood it as an heroic epithet, his Congolese companions understood it in a mocking and pejorative tone.[15]

Modern culture[]

File:Henry Morton Stanley grave.jpg

Henry Morton Stanley's grave in Pirbright, Surrey

In 1939, a popular film called Stanley and Livingstone was released, with Spencer Tracy as Stanley and Cedric Hardwicke as Livingstone.

An NES game based on his life was released in 1992 called "Stanley: The Search for Dr. Livingston".[16]

In 1997, a made-for-television film called "Forbidden Territory: Stanley's Search for Livingstone" was produced by National Geographic. Stanley was portrayed by Aidan Quinn and Livingstone was portrayed by Nigel Hawthorne.

Stanley Electric Co., Ltd. of Japan, uses Stanley's family name in honour of his discoveries "that have brought light into many spots of the world undiscovered and hitherto unknown to mankind".[17] The company produces light emitting diodes, liquid crystal displays, and lamps.

His great grandson, Richard Stanley, is a South African filmmaker and directs documentaries.[18]

There is a hospital in St. Asaph, North Wales named after Stanley in honour of his birth in the area. It was the former workhouse in which he spent much of his early life.

The 2009 History Channel series, Expedition Africa, documents a group of explorers attempting to traverse the route of Stanley's expedition in search of Livingstone.

"Search for the Nile" BBC 1971. A 5 hour series, much shot on location, which included H.M.Stanley and David Livingstone. (Although very highly regarded[19] this has never been shown or released again by the BBC, but VHS copies can, with a little effort, be found.)

The captain at Fire Station 51 in the popular 1970s drama 'Emergency!' is named Henry Stanley. It is unknown whether or not this was done on purpose.

See also[]

  • Edmund Musgrave Barttelot


  1. Sherry, Norman (1980). Conrad's Western World. Cambridge University Press. p. 340. ISBN 0521298083, ISBN 9780521298087. 
  2. Dictionary of Welsh Biography
  3. "The Making of an American Lion", American Heritage, Vol. 25, No. 2, February, 1974.
  4. Edgerton, Robert T. (2002). The Troubled Heart of Africa. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 35. ISBN 0-312-30486-2. 
  5. Arnold, James (1998). Shiloh 1862. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781855326064.  Page 32
  6. John Carey (March 18, 2007). "A good man in Africa?". The Sunday Times (London). Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  7. Hochschild, Adam (1998). King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0395759242. 
  8. Jeal, Tim (2007). Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer. Faber and Faber. ISBN 0571221025. 
  9. "THE SEARCH FOR LIVINGSTON: Progress of the Englishman Stanley -- Fierce Encounter with Arabs -- Arrival at the Coast -- The Great Explorer Remains Two Years More in Africa", London, July 1 New York Times, July 2, 1872. Accessed 19 May 2008.
  10. Jeal, Tim (2007). Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer. Faber and Faber. ISBN 0571221025. p. 117
  11. Stanley, Henry M. (19 February 2002). How I Found Livingstone; travels, adventures, and discoveres in Central Africa. Dover Publications. ISBN 0486419533. 
  12. Stanley, Henry M. (1988). Through the Dark Continent. Dover Publications. pp. 432 pages. ISBN 0486256677. 
  13. Alastair Compston (2008). "Editorial". Brain 131 (5): 1163–1164. doi:10.1093/brain/awn070. PMID 18450785. 
  14. Jeal, Tim
  15. Hochschild (1998)
  16. Stanley: The Search for Dr. Livingston
  17. Stanley Electric Co., Ltd., profile
  18. Template:Imdb name
  19. "The Search for the Nile" (1971) - IMDb user comments


  • Hall, Richard : Stanley. An Adventurer Explored, London, 1974.
  • Stanley, Henry M. (ed. Dorothy Stanley) : The Autobiography of Henry M. Stanley, New York, 1909, 1969.

Further reading[]

  • Tim Butcher: Blood River - A Journey To Africa's Broken Heart, 2007. ISBN 0-701-17981-3
  • Dugard, Martin: Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone, 2003. ISBN 0-385-50451-9
  • Hochschild, Adam: King Leopold's Ghost, 2002. ISBN 0-330-49233-0
  • Hughes, Nathaniel, Jr. Sir Henry Morton Stanley, Confederate ISBN 0-8071-2587-3 reprint with introduction copyright 2000, from original, The Autobiography of Sir Henry Morton Stanley (1909)
  • Jeal, Tim (2007). Stanley - The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-22102-5. 
  • Liebowitz, Daniel; Pearson, Charles: The Last Expedition: Stanley's Mad Journey Through the Congo, 2005. ISBN 0-393-05903-0
  • Pakenham, Thomas: The Scramble for Africa. Abacus History, 1991. ISBN 0-349-10449-2
  • Petringa, Maria: Brazza, A Life for Africa, 2006. ISBN 978-1-4259-1198-0
  • The British Medical Journal 1870-1871 editions have numerous reports of Stanley's progress in attempting to track down David Livingston. Several medical schools in the USA (e.g. Johns Hopkins, UW Madison) have these volumes still in the stack and readers can read for themselves the accounts of this famous expedition.
  • Simpson, J. 2007. Not Quite World's End A Traveller's Tales. pp. 291–293; 294 - 296. Pan Books. ISBN 978-0-330-43560-4

External links[]

Template:Start box |- ! colspan="3" style="background: #cccccc" | Parliament of the United Kingdom |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Francis Moses Colwells |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Member of Parliament for Lambeth North
18951900 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Frederick William Horner |- |}

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