Few people have garnered so much enduring interest as Sir Richard Burton. A true polymath, Burton is best known today for his translations of the Kama Sutra and Arabian Nights. Yet, Africa stood at the center of his adult life. The Burton-Speke expedition (1856–59) that put Lake Tanganyika on the map led to years of controversy over the source of the White Nile. From 1861 to 1864 Burton served as British consul in Fernando Po and traveled widely between Ghana and Angola. He wrote prodigiously and contributed some of the first detailed ethnographic accounts of Africa’s peoples. In many ways, however, Africa proved to be Burton’s undoing. Injuries and sickness sapped his strength, he made enemies in high places, and, ironically, even the discovery of Lake Tanganyika worked to his disadvantage. Increasingly frustrated and bitter, he turned to alcohol as a frequent remedy.In this fascinating story of the relationship between a man and a continent, geographer James L. Newman provides an intimate portrait of Burton through careful examination of his journals and biographers’ rich analyses. Delving deepest into Burton’s later life and travels, Newman pinpoints the thematic mainstays of his career as a diplomat and explorer, namely his strong advocacy of aggressive imperial policies and his belief that race explained crucial human differences. Historians and scholars of the golden age of empire, as well as armchair adventurers, will not only discover what defined this famously enigmatic figure, but venture, themselves, into the heart of mid-nineteenth-century Africa.
The “master storyteller” (San Francisco Chronicle) behind the New York Times bestseller The Spy and the Traitor uncovers the true story behind the Cold War’s most intrepid female spy.
In 1942, in a quiet village in the leafy English Cotswolds, a thin, elegant woman lived in a small cottage with her three children and her husband, who worked as a machinist nearby. Ursula Burton was friendly but reserved, and spoke English with a slight foreign accent. By all accounts, she seemed to be living a simple, unassuming life. Her neighbors in the village knew little about her.
They didn’t know that she was a high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer. They didn’t know that her husband was also a spy, or that she was running powerful agents across Europe. Behind the facade of her picturesque life, Burton was a dedicated Communist, a Soviet colonel, and a veteran agent, gathering the scientific secrets that would enable the Soviet Union to build the bomb.
This true-life spy story is a masterpiece about the woman code-named “Sonya.” Over the course of her career, she was hunted by the Chinese, the Japanese, the Nazis, MI5, MI6, and the FBI—and she evaded them all. Her story reflects the great ideological clash of the twentieth century—among Communism, Fascism, and Western democracy—and casts new light on the spy battles and shifting allegiances of our own times.
With unparalleled access to Sonya’s diaries and correspondence and never-before-seen information on her clandestine activities, Ben Macintyre has conjured a page-turning history of a legendary secret agent, a woman who influenced the course of the Cold War and helped plunge the world into a decades-long standoff between nuclear superpowers.