Sir Richard Burton, Victorian Rebel Explorer
Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 6:45 p.m.
Please note this program has different ticket options. The member + book and nonmember + book price will include a copy of The Highly Civilized Man.
Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821–1890) was a British explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. As an explorer, he is probably best known for leading the first European expedition into the great lakes region of Africa in search of the source of the Nile. But he also was famed for traveling to Mecca disguised as a Muslim pilgrim, translating The Arabian Nights and the Kama Sutra into English, and his linguistic skills, which, by one count, included knowledge of some 29 distinct languages.
One of the challenges confronting the British in the 19th century was to make sense of the multiplicity of peoples and cultures they encountered in their imperial march around the globe. Burton played an important role in this mission. Drawing on his wide-ranging experiences in other lands and intense curiosity about their inhabitants, he conducted an intellectually ambitious, highly provocative inquiry into racial, religious, and sexual differences that exposed his own society's norms to scrutiny.
Your guide to this Victorian swashbuckler is Dane Kennedy, historian at George Washington University, and author of The Highly Civilized Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World and The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia (both Harvard University Press).
Part of the Uncharted Territory: Great Expeditions and the Trailblazers Who Led Them program series.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)