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Drummond, Tropical Africa.

Drummond, Henry.

Tropical Africa. With Maps and Illustrations.

First Edition. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1888. 13 cm x 19.5 cm. Frontispiece, XI, 228 pages. 6 maps (on five fold-out-sheets). At front 2 fold-out colour maps of East Central Africa and Equatorial. At rear fold-out colour maps of ‘European Possessions and Claims in Central and Southern Africa’. One fold-out colour map of east central Africa within contents. Hardcover / contemporary half leather with marbled paper-covered-boards. Gilt lettering and tooling on spine. Very good condition with only minor signs of external wear. Minor damage to heel of spine. Binding still firm and strong. Foxing to endpapers. Interior and maps in bright and clean condition.

Includes, for example, the following: The Water-route to the Heart of Africa: The River Zambesi and the Shire / The East African Lake Country: Lakes Shirwa and Nyasa / The Heart-Disease of Africa: Its Pathology and Cure etc.
Ephemera leaf within book. ‘Daily Chronicle’ (March 12 1897) obituary of Henry Drummond.

From the Preface: “If anything in a work of this class could pretend to a serious purpose, I do not conceal that, in addition to the mere desire to inform, a special reason exists just now for writing about Africa – a reason so urgent that I excuse myself with difficulty for introducing a problem in so slight a setting. The reader who runs his eye over the “Heart-Disease of Africa” will discover how great the need is for arousing afresh that truer interest in the Dark Continent which since Livingstone’s time has almost died away. To many modern travellers Africa is simply a country to be explored; to Livingstone it was a land to be pitied and redeemed. And recent events on Lake Nyassa have stirred a new desire in the hearts of those who care for native Africa that “the open sore of the world” should have a last and decisive treatment at the hands of England.” (p.vii)

Henry Drummond (1851-1897) was a Scottish evangelist, biologist, writer and lecturer, who, after attending university began his study for the ministry. During this time, he became interested in missionary and other movements of the Free Church of Scotland.
Drummond was an advocate of theistic evolution. His studies resulted in his writing ‘Natural Law in the Spiritual World,’ in which he asserted that the scientific principle of continuity extends from the physical world to the spiritual. Before the book was published in 1883, an invitation from the African Lakes Company drew Drummond away to Central Africa. (Wikipedia)
After his return to Britain he published Tropical Africa in 1888.
A product of his time and place, Drummond writes of this region, “the heart of this mysterious Africa,” and how wonderful it is “to look at this weird world of human beings – half animal half children, wholly savage and wholly heathen; and to come back again to civilisation before the impressions have had time to fade, and while the myriad problems of so strange a spectacle are still seething in the mind.” (p.4)
These contrasts between the Drummond sees as “savage” and to what stands for civilisation drives his narrative. The immaterialism of the native surrounded by a fecund environment supplying him with his needs is almost beyond Drummond’s comprehension. “The African is often blamed for being lazy, but it is a misuse of words. He does not need to work; with so bountiful a nature round him it would be gratuitous to work. And his indolence, therefore, as it is called, is just as much part of himself as his flat nose, and as little blameworthy as slowness in a tortoise. The fact is, Africa is a nation of the unemployed. This completeness, however, will be sad drawback to development. Already it is found difficult to create new wants; and when labour is required, and you have already paid your man a yard of calico and a string of beads, you have nothing in your possession to bribe him to another hand’s turn. Nothing almost that you have would be the slightest use to him.” (p.56) In order to be connected into the global economy, “wants” – and the necessity to work – have to be created for the Africans if they are to be integrated into modernity. Can “these savages” be taught to work? Drummond answers in the affirmative. “In capacity the African is fit to work, in inclination he is willing to work, and in actual experiment he has done it; so that with capital enlisted and wise heads to direct these energies, with considerate employers who will remember that these men are but children, this vast nation of the unemployed may yet be added to the slowly growing list of the world’s producers.” (p.64-65)
Drummond is not only interested in exploiting Africans’ potential, he is also concerned with stamping out an evil that festers in this idyll – for this region “is darkened by a tragedy whose terrors are unknown to any other people under heaven.” This “great and national wrong” done to these “simple and unprotected tribes” is carried out by “uninvited strangers”, the Arabs. “Wherever they go in Africa the followers of Islam are the destroyers of peace, the breakers up of the patriarchal life, the dissolvers of the family tie. Already they hold the entire Continent under one reign of terror. They have effected this in virtue of one thing – they possess firearms; and they do it for one object – ivory and slaves, for these two are one.” Drummond proceeds to describe the activities of the Arabs as they ravage the region in pursuit of booty. To end slavery in the Central Africa Drummond urged Britain, with its track record of anti-slavery policies, and historic associations with the region around Lake Nyasa through missionaries like Livingstone and the African Lakes Company and London’s financial and military capabilities to be the bulwark, “break the Arab yoke” and “relieve this suffering continent.” (pp. 69-86) Already the unofficial British presence in areas around Lake Nyasa have been beneficial (as opposed to the avarice of the Portuguese and Germans) and “this oasis in the desert,” of thriving settlements, trading stations and churches should be nurtured and protected and declared a “Sphere of British Influence”. Drummond, warming to the task, continues, “[h]ere is one spot, at least, on the Dark Continent, which is being kept pure and clean. It is now within the power of the English Government to mark it off before the world as henceforth sacred ground.” (p.230)
Drummond’s call-to-arms encapsulates the drives underpinning the civilising mission of European powers throughout the 19th Century: saving souls, ameliorating the conditions of the Africans, international rivalries, and exploiting the Continent’s resources and its people. That these often-contradictory impulses co-existed within the one author illustrates the complexities of Western attitudes to and about the African continent and its peoples.
While writing passionately on their behalf and in his opposition to their enslavement, Drummond, nevertheless, does not treat the natives as anything resembling his equal. Turning his gaze to the central African natives’ skin the missionary writes, “[I]t is a deep full-toned brown, something like the colour of a good cigar. The whole surface is diced with a delicate pattern, which gives it great richness and beauty, and I often thought how effective a row of books would be bound in native-morocco.” (p.57-58) Their souls may be saved for the Lord, everything else was just another commodity.

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Drummond, Tropical Africa.
Drummond, Tropical Africa.
Drummond, Tropical Africa.
Drummond, Tropical Africa.