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Radical RomanticsProphets, Pirates, and the Space Beyond Nation$
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Talissa J. Ford

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474409421

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474409421.001.0001

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From Here to Timbuktu

From Here to Timbuktu

(p.123) Chapter 5 From Here to Timbuktu
Radical Romantics

Talissa J. Ford

Edinburgh University Press

Timbuktu was a site for both mystical and imperial projections, both the city of gold and the (always impossible) destination of European explorers. This chapter begins with the narrative of Robert Adams who, in 1815, declared to Britain's African Company that he was the first white man ever to have been to Timbuktu. But Adams was a poor mixed-race sailor who was found starving on the London docks, and he invented the Timbuktu tale to secure food, clothing, and passage back to America. Five years later, James Grey Jackson published the narrative of Al-Sayid al-Hajj ‘Abd al-Salaam Shabeeny, a Muslim merchant who also claimed to have been to Timbuktu; Jackson made the mistake of citing Adams’ narrative as evidence of the veracity of some of Shabeeny’s claims. This chapter argues that Adams and Shabeeny take advantage of British self-conception and colonial imagination to manipulate systems of control, rather than to merely respond to them. Like pirates, Shabeeny and Adams recognize how to work the colonial territorial imagination to their own ends.

Keywords:   Timbuktu, African Company, Robert Adams, James Grey Jackson, colonialism

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