Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Henry Morton Stanley

Sir Henry Morton Stanley (January 29, 1841 - May 10, 1904) was a famous journalist and explorer born as John Rowlands in Denbigh, Wales. An illegitimate child, he was brought up in a workhouse, and later worked his passage to the United States on a ship. During the voyage, he became friendly with a wealthy trader named Stanley, whose name he assumed.

After military service with both sides in the American Civil War, Stanley became a journalist, arriving on the staff of the New York Herald in 1867. He became one of their overseas correspondents, and in 1869 was instructed to find the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, who was known to be in Africa but had not been heard of for some time. According to Stanley's no doubt romanticised account, he asked James Gordon Bennett, Jr, the paper's owner, how much he could spend. The reply was "Draw 1000 pounds now, and when you have gone through that, draw another 1000, and when that is spent, draw another 1000, and when you have finished that, draw another 1000, and so on – BUT FIND LIVINGSTONE!"

Stanley travelled to Zanzibar and outfitted an expedition with the best of everything, requiring no less than 2000 porters. He located Livingstone on November 10, 1871 in Ujiji near Lake Tanganyika in present-day Tanzania, and famously greeted him (at least according to his own journal) by saying "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Stanley joined him 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. The New York Herald, in partnership with Britain's Daily Telegraph, then financed him on another expedition to the African continent, one of his achievements being to solve the last great mystery of African exploration by tracing the course of the river Congo to the sea.

Controversy followed Stanley for most of his life. In later years he spent much energy defending himself against charges that his African expeditions had been marked by callous violence and brutality remarkable even in that violent continent. Despite Stanley's efforts, the facts gradually emerged: his opinion was that "the savage only respects force, power, boldness, and decision." Stanley would be directly responsible for a great many deaths and indirectly responsible for helping establish the worst single episode of European greed and genocide in African history: the rule of King Leopold over the Congo Free State.

In 1886, Stanley led the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition to "rescue" Emin Pasha, the governor of Equatoria in the southern Sudan. 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.

On his return to Europe, he married the Welsh artist, Dorothy Tennant, and entered Parliament as Unionist MP for the London Borough of Lambeth, from 1895 to 1900.