Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

John Cramsie




exploration, Timbuktu, narrative, nationalism, travelers


This thesis examines the exploration and discovery of Timbuktu primarily focusing on the travels and narrative of René Caillié the first European to publish his successful journey to Timbucku in 1828. Timbuktu since the thirteenth century had become a romantic mystery for Europeans and stimulated massive interest in its discovery by major geographical Societies. Through a mixture of primary and secondary sources I am able to analyze the geopolitical rivalries and myths surrounding Timbuktu that would instigate the travels of twenty-five English, fourteen Frenchmen, two Americans and one German which the majority of resulted in death. Examining Caillié’s published narrative provides the insight into traveling during this time-period and the political tensions existing between France and England that hindered rather than promoted self-exploration. Caillié would be the first European to successfully publish, not an easy feat as is demonstrated by the many failures before him. However, the reception of his account and the nationalistic rivalry between France and England would diminish his rightful glory forever casting a shadow upon his work. By analyzing primary sources that review Caillié’s account I am able to determine the animosities existing against the French geographical society and how this would invalidate Caillié’s narrative. My claim that the nationalistic rivalries would continue to shroud the credit due to Caillié is proven by contemporary secondary sources that still exhibit anti-French sentiments when comparing the efforts and achievements of Caillié to English travelers.