About the book
Travels in West Africa 
Until 1893, Mary Kingsley led a secluded life in Victorian England. But at age 30, defying every convention of womanhood of the time, she left England for West Africa to collect botanical specimens for a book left unfinished by her father at his death. Traveling through western and equatorial Africa and becoming the first European to enter some parts of Gabon, Kingsley’s story—as an explorer and as a woman—would become an enduring tale of adventure, ranking 18th on Adventure magazine’s list of the top 100 adventure books.
Originally published in 1895, and never out of print, Travels in West Africa is Kingsley’s account of her dauntless travels, unaccompanied but for African guides, into Africa’s most dangerous jungles, where the tribes were reputed to be ferocious and cannibalistic. Along the way, she fought off crocodiles with a paddle, hit a leopard over the head with a pot, fell into an animal trap lined with sharpened sticks, and waded through swamps in chin-deep water. Despite her travails, Kingsley succeeded remarkably in this unknown place, establishing warm relationships with the natives and collecting more than 400 samples of plants and insects, some of which are now extinct.
Featuring an introduction that expertly sets Kingsley’s adventure against the history of European exploration of Africa, Travels in West Africa is a unique and extraordinary contribution—by an equally unique and extraordinary woman—to the best of adventure writing.
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About the Author
Mary Henrietta Kingsley, 1862-1900
English traveller, ethnologist and author, daughter of George Henry Kingsley [1827-1892], was born in Islington, London, on the 13th of October 1862. Mary Kingsley's reading in history, poetry and philosophy was wide, but she was most attracted to natural history. Her family moved to Cambridge in 1886, where she studied the science of sociology.
The loss of both parents in 1892 left her free to pursue her own course, and she resolved to study native religion and law in West Africa with a view to completing a book which her father had left unfinished. With her study of raw fetish she combined that of a scientific collector of fresh-water fishes. She started for the West Coast in August 1893; and at Kabinda, at Old Calabar, Fernando Po and on the Lower Congo she pursued her investigations, returning to England in June 1894.
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