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Boahen, Albert Adu (1959) British Penetration of the Sahara and Western Sudan, 1788-1861. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The systematic exploration of the interior of Africa, which began in 1788 with the formation of the African Association, and the subsequent frantic search for the source and mouth of the Niger, were an extension into Africa of the botanical and geographical explorations of the eighteenth century, and the search for new markets and raw materials necessitated by the Industrial Revolution. From 1805, when the Government assumed responsibility for exploring the interior, the economic motive became even more prominent. It was not until the second Clapperton mission of 1825 that motives for the abolition of the slave trade became a factor in the drive into the interior. While the missions of Houghton and Park, and those of Denham and Clapperton, and Laing from the west and north coasts respectively opened up increasingly the Sahara and Sudan, the venerable Niger problem was not unravelled until 1830. The failure of the Liverpool expedition of 1833 to exploit the Niger as a commercial highway and the Government's reluctance to sponsor any further attempts, and, in the north, the diplomatic breach between the Tripolitanian and British governments over the murder of Laing, halted the penetration into the interior. However, Buxton's campaigns led to the resumption of activities on the Niger with the dispatch of the 1841 expedition, and in the north, with the establishment of the first vice-consulate in the Sahara at Murzuk and Richardson's mission to Ghat. The failure of the 1841 expedition, the fear of French expansion from Algeria, and the hope of developing trade intensified British interests in the Sahara shown by the creation of the second vice-consulate at Ghadames in 1850. The famous Richardson-Barth mission was the logical sequel to the British activities in the Sahara. The discovery of the prophylactic use of quinine made the Niger rather than the Sahara the obvious avenue into the interior. The more favourable attitude to French expansion southwards in the late fifties, the abolition of the slave trade in the Ottoman Empire and in the Barbary states except Morocco, and the consequent diversion of the slave traffic into channels outside the purview of the vice-consulates, led to the British withdrawal from the Sahara in 1861.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:24

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