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Chapter Twenty-Four. Roosevelt in Africa

Patricia O'Toole


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Theodore Roosevelt's African trip is generally treated as a colorful intermission between his presidency and the rogue Bull Moose phase of his political career or as yet another outdoor adventure in the life of an adventurous outdoorsman. TR's biographers have based their accounts of the safari almost entirely on his own account, African Game Trails , to which they have added passages from his letters home or from the diary kept by his son Kermit, who traveled with him. TR was an informed and accurate narrator, but he wrote little about the native peoples he encountered, the prominent white settlers with whom he stayed, or his conversations with them on the challenges of colonial governance. The underutilized primary sources include the papers and books of British East African settlers who met TR; letters written by the naturalists who accompanied him; the papers of Francis Warrington Dawson, an American journalist who spent six weeks with him in Africa; and the archives of the Smithsonian Institution, which sponsored the work of the naturalists. These sources show what the colony's leading settlers thought of TR, and they challenge the arguments he made to justify the killing of 512 large animals. They also confirm the strength of his attraction to imperialism (an attraction he routinely denied) and bring to light the problems that his safari created for the Smithsonian. Theodore ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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