Stanley - Jeal, Tim - Yale University Press


The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer

  • Tim Jeal
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Out of Print.

Winner of the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography

Named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2007 by The New York Times Book Review

Nominated for the 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the Biography category

Silver medal winner of the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Award in the category of Biography.

Selected as a 2008 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title from 2008.

Selected as one of the best books of 2008 by the Washington Post in the Biography category 

View videos from the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Finalist Readings and Awards Ceremony.

Listen to the author sort out legend from the truth on The Leonard Lopate Show: "The Great Adventures of Sir Henry Morton Stanley"

"A magnificent new life . . . [and] a superb adventure story. . . . There have been many biographies of Stanley, but Jeal's is the most felicitous, the best informed, the most complete and readable and exhaustive, profiting from his access to an immense new trove of Stanley material." -- Paul Theroux, front page, New York Times Book Review 

Henry Morton Stanley, so the tale goes, was a cruel imperialist who connived with King Leopold II of Belgium in horrific crimes against the people of the Congo. He also conducted the most legendary celebrity interview in history, opening with, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”


But these perceptions are not quite true, Tim Jeal shows in this grand and colorful biography. With unprecedented access to previously closed Stanley family archives, Jeal reveals the amazing extent to which Stanley’s public career and intimate life have been misunderstood and undervalued. Jeal recovers the reality of Stanley’s life—a life of almost impossible extremes—in this moving story of tragedy, adventure, disappointment, and success.


Few have started life as disadvantaged as Stanley. Rejected by both parents and consigned to a Welsh workhouse, he emigrated to America as a penniless eighteen-year-old. Jeal vividly re-creates Stanley’s rise to success, his friendships and romantic relationships, and his  life-changing decision to assume an American identity. Stanley’s epic but  unfairly forgotten African journeys are thrillingly described, establishing  the explorer as the greatest to set foot on the continent. Few biographies can claim so thoroughly to reappraise a reputation; few portray a more extraordinary historical figure.


Tim Jeal is also the biographer of Henry Morton Stanley (National Book Critics' Circle Award in Biography and Sunday Times Biography of the Year 2007), and Robert Baden-Powell, which (like Livingstone) was chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and the Washington Post. In 2011 his Explorers of the Nile was a New York Times Editor's Choice and a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week.

Read the entire New York Times Sunday Book Review of Stanley.

Listen to Tim Jeal's interview on WILL AM, Focus 580 with David Inge. Download the program with Windows Media Player.



For sale in the U.S. only