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Heinrich Barths Forschungsmethode

Christoph Marx

Pages 159 - 177



The article explores the ways in which the German explorer Heinrich Barth, who wrote a massive account of his African expedition in the mid-nineteenth century, collected and verified information. The polyglot scholar became fluent in a number of ancient and modern European and African languages. His main research methods were participant observation, questioning and reading. Barth realized that he was most effective as an observer when travelling as the sole European in the company of locals, and he kept a continuous written record of his findings. Moreover, he used his linguistic skills to interview a wide range of informants, including scholars, merchants, pilgrims and his travel companions, carefully comparing their statements. Finally, Barth was an avid reader of books and manuscripts with a high regard for African (above all Islamic) literacy and scholarship.


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