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Mary Kingsley: Imperial Adventuress
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Co-edited by Dea Birkett
Amazonian: The Penguin Book of Women’s New Travel Writing

Mary Kingsley: Imperial Adventuress

Mary Kingsley: Imperial Adventuress

When I was an undergraduate at Edinburgh University, my African History tutor set me an essay topic. ‘Mary Kingsley – can her views be taken seriously?’ I wasn’t even sure who Mary Kingsley was. But I soon found out that she was an extraordinarily individual woman, who, on the sudden deaths of both her dependant parents, ‘felt like a boy with a new half crown’, abandoned her suffocating Cambridge home and sailed to West Africa. Soon, she was my first love. Her 1896 portrait was pinned up above my student desk. I travelled to West Africa in her footsteps, sailing home as she did, on an Elder Dempster cargo vessel.

Mary Kingsley was recently the subject of Great Lives on BBC Radio 4, where I debated her legacy with the journalist Ann Leslie.

Imperial Adventuress is my biography of this extraordinary woman.

Mary Kingsley (1862-1900). A Biographical Bibliography

I have also compiled a bibliography of Mary Kingsley’s writings for the Royal African Society which was founded in her memory. ‘Mary Kingsley (1862-1900). A Biographical Bibliography’


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