An Anglo-American Encounter in Africa: Henry M. Stanley in Abyssinia, 1868

Griffiths, Andrew (2019). An Anglo-American Encounter in Africa: Henry M. Stanley in Abyssinia, 1868. In: Griffiths, Andrew; Alves, Audrey and Trindade, Alice eds. Literary Journalism and Africa's Wars: Colonial, Decolonial and Postcolonial Perspectives. ReportAGES. Nancy, France: Presses Universitaires de Nancy.



This chapter aims to highlight an under-explored yet significant episode in Stanley’s career: the Abyssinian expedition was his first encounter with Africa. Stanley’s accounts of the expedition provide an informative record of the transatlantic competition and innovation that drove the transformation of journalism in the late 19th century. They also established a model for the reporting of imperial wars, in which trauma and vulnerability were emphasized in order to amplify the eventual triumph. I argue here that Stanley’s reports were at the leading edge of developments in journalism, both in stylistic and in narrative terms. As Stanley established his own voice, he also shaped the dominant mode of imperial reportage. His correspondence from Abyssinia must be understood in the context of “a revolution in journalism” in which a new emphasis on “human interest, visual matter, typographical boldness and rapid, speedy news coverage” emerged first in the United States press and shortly afterwards in British publications (James 191; Wiener, Americanization, 3–4). That emergent style of journalism was referred to – often pejoratively – as the Yellow Journalism in the United States and as the New Journalism in Britain. A high level of expenditure on special correspondents gathering and making sensational news was a major feature of the emerging style of journalism. Literary Journalism as it is understood today would not have been possible without these developments.

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