Stanley, Sir Henry Morton

Stanley, Sir Henry Morton, 1841–1904, Anglo-American journalist, explorer, and empire builder, b. Denbigh, Wales. He grew up in poverty and came to America as a worker on a ship, which he jumped (1858) in New Orleans. Originally named John Rowlands, there he took a new name, which he claimed, apparently falsely, was that of his adoptive father. After fighting on both sides in the American Civil War and deserting, he drifted into journalism. His coverage of Lord Napier's Ethiopian campaign in 1868 for the New York Herald won him journalistic notice, and he later pursuaded the paper's editor to commission him to go to Africa to find David Livingstone. Stanley located the great explorer on Lake Tanganyika on Nov. 10, 1871. He claimed to have addressed him with the famous words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?,” but probably did not actually do so. Failing to persuade Livingstone to leave Africa, Stanley returned to England with the news of his discovery. He found a mixed reception in England, where Livingstone's backers criticized Stanley's efforts and methods. Nevertheless, he succeeded in enhancing Livingstone's reputation and soon led a second expedition (1874–77), sponsored by newspapers, to further Livingstone's explorations. He followed the Congo River from its source to the sea, but he found the British uninterested in developing the region.

Stanley then accepted the invitation of Leopold II of Belgium to head another expedition. During this third journey (1879–84) he helped to organize the notorious Congo Free State (see under Congo, Democratic Republic of the), largely by persuading local chiefs to grant sovereignty over their land to the Belgian king. At the Berlin Conference (1884–85; see Berlin, Conference of) he was instrumental in obtaining American support for Leopold's Congo venture. His last African journey (1887–89), to find Emin Pasha, helped to put Uganda into the British sphere of influence. A naturalized U.S. citizen, Stanley again became a British subject in 1892, sat in Parliament (1895–1900), and was knighted (1899). His spirited and often self-aggrandizing accounts of his adventures include How I Found Livingstone (1872), Through the Dark Continent (2 vol., 1878), In Darkest Africa (2 vol., 1890), and The Exploration Diaries of H. M. Stanley (ed. by R. Stanley and A. Neame, 1961). A British and American hero for about a century and certainly a man of great accomplishment, Stanley has fared rather poorly in recent histories, which have revealed instances of his lying about events in his life, duplicity in some of his dealings, and many acts of brutality toward Africans.

See his Autobiography (1909, repr. 1969), ed. by his wife, Dorothy Stanley ; biographies by R. Hall (1974), J. Bierman (1990), F. McLynn (2 vol., 1989 and 1991), and T. Jeal (2007); R. Jones, The Rescue of Emin Pasha (1973).

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