Press contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221
Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or ada@loc.gov

August 23, 2013

19th Century British Expeditions in Africa and Australia Are Subject of Book Discussion

Explorers Viewed These Continents as “Blank Spaces”

At the beginning of the 19th century, the British Empire that encompassed the interiors of Africa and Australia remained a mystery. Determined explorers met the challenge of opening these continents to imperial influence, as they sought knowledge, adventure and fame – but often experienced confusion, fear and failure. "The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia" (Harvard University Press, 2013) follows these explorations from idea to practice, from intention to outcome, from myth to reality.

Dane Kennedy, author of "The Last Blank Spaces," will discuss and sign his book on Monday, Sept. 9, at noon in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event, sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, is co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Libraries. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Kennedy surveyed dozens of expeditions into Africa and Australia in the 19th century, nothing that these journeys adopted a mode of scientific investigation that had been developed by previous generations of seaborne explorers. They viewed the two continents as "vast uninhabited oceans," empty spaces that could be made truly knowable only by mapping, measuring, observing and preserving. They found, however, that their survival and success depended less on this system of universal knowledge than it did on the local knowledge possessed by indigenous peoples.

Dane Kennedy is the Elmer Louis Kayser professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University. He is also the author of "The Highly Civilized Man: Richard Burton and the Victorian World."

Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress (www.Read.gov/cfb/) has become a major national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s www.Read.gov website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center and the Poetry and Literature Center.

The Smithsonian Libraries maintain a collection of more than 2 million volumes and serve as an educational resource for the Smithsonian Institution, the global research community and the public. The libraries are located in Washington, Edgewater, Md., New York City and the Republic of Panama. For more information about the Smithsonian Libraries, visit library.si.edu (external link).

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 155 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.

# # #

PR 13-152
08/23/13
ISSN 0731-3527

Back to top