American Travelers on the Nile
September 29, 2015
The Treaty of Ghent signed in 1814, ending the War of 1812, allowed Americans once again to travel abroad. Medical students went to Paris, artists to Rome, academics to Göttingen, and tourists to all European capitals. More intrepid Americans ventured to Athens, to Constantinople, and even to Egypt. Beginning with two eighteenth-century travelers, this book then turns to the 25-year period after 1815 that saw young men from East Coast cities, among them graduates of Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, traveling to the lands of the Bible and of the Greek and Latin authors they had first known as teenagers. Naval officers off ships of the Mediterranean squadron visited Cairo to see the Pyramids. Two groups went on business, one importing steam-powered rice and cotton mills from New York, the other exporting giraffes from the Kalahari Desert for wild animal shows in New York.
This lecture was in coordination with NYU Washington, DC's Liberal Studies course offering Social Foundations, III, taught by Bulbul Tiwari. This course focuses on the world’s great traditions in philosophy, theology, history, and political science from the Enlightenment through Modernity. It familiarizes students with the impact of the colonial and post-colonial eras on major world discourses about the nature of human identity and society through a comparative study of seminal texts.
Andrew Oliver is an art historian and former museum administrator living in Washington, DC. With degrees from Harvard College and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, he was director of the Museum Program at the National Endowment for the Arts from 1982 to 1994. Earlier in his career, from 1960 to 1970, he was a curator in the Greek and Roman Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Drawing on unpublished letters and diaries together with previously neglected newspaper accounts, as well as a handful of published accounts, this book offers a new look at the early American experience in Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean world. More than thirty illustrations complement the stories told by the travelers themselves.
“[This] highly readable book is a major contribution to the history of Egyptology and to the study of the East–West encounter.” Jason Thompson, author of A History of Egypt: From Earliest Times to the Present
“Andrew Oliver has rescued an earlier, happier American encounter with the Middle East—when Americans came to admire, to explore, and to record. . . . Indispensable for anyone interested in the history of travel and of the Middle East in the age of Mohammed Ali Pasha.”
Philip Mansel, author of Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean
“For those interested in the study of travelers and travel in Egypt, this book is a welcome new source of information about many forgotten journeys and will be valuable for descriptions of Egypt and its monuments.” Neil Cooke, Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East