Michael F. Robinson, "The Lost White Tribe: Explorers, Scientists, and the Theory that Changed a Continent" (Oxford UP, 2016)


Michael F. Robinson's new book is such a pleasure to read, I cant even. It's not just because you get to say Gambaragara over and over again if you read it aloud. (I recommend doing this, even if just with that one word.) It's not just because its a beautifully crafted work of prose. And it's not just because its quite literally a page-turner. The Lost White Tribe: Explorers, Scientists, and the Theory that Changed a Continent (Oxford University Press, 2016) is also a masterful biography of an idea: the life story of the Hamitic hypothesis and its relationship to to the histories of exploration, science, ideas of human origins, and much much more. Robinson's book opens with an account of reporter David Ker going to the London mansion of Henry Morton Stanley in 1885 to interview the man who was at that point the world's most famous explorer. (As Robinson puts it, Stanley resided in London, but in truth he lived nowhere.) As the story unfolds we learn about Stanley's encounter with the white race of Gambaragara and its imbrication with a set of larger questions (Where did the human species originate? Why had it split into separate races? And how had these races come to settle the different regions of the planet?) as we meet some fascinating and compelling figures. The Lost White Tribe also has mummies, ruins, skulls, adventure fiction, and Freud. Enjoy!

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