Important persons



Johann Christoph Heinrich Barth
23.12.1787 in Willmersdorff (Thuringia) – 3.11.1856 in Hamburg
Hanna Carolina Charlotte Elisabeth Zadow
7.5.1789 (oder 1791) in Hannover – 12.10.1862 in Hamburg
Married since 1814.


Henriette Barth
8.11.1816 – 3.4.1888; in the letters frequently nicknamed Jette or Jettchen.
Theodor Barth
26.3.1819 – emigrated in 1842 via New Zealand to Australia, where his traces are lost; he probably died there in 1847.
Mathilde Barth
28.6.1825 – 28.5.1894 (since 1848 married to Gustav Schubert), in the letters she is usually nicknamed as Tildchen or Tillchen.
Ludwig Barth
18.4.1832 – 14.6.1892 (since 19.1.1855 married to Amelie Agnes Maria Charlotte Mierow (1833-1906)


Gustav Wilhelm Schubert
28.9.1824 – 3.9.1907 (in 1878 knighted), officer in the Royal Saxonian army, when Barth died Schubert held the rank of Captain, before his retirement he was promoted to Lieutenant General.

Academic teachers and supporters of Barth

August Boeckh
24.11.1785 in Karlsruhe – 3.8.1867 in Berlin; philologist and classical scholar, since 1810 Professor at the newly founded University of Berlin, whose Vice-Chancellor he was for five periods. 1812-1867 Head of the department of philology, established epigraphics as a distinct discipline, he also did research in ancient economic history, one of his main works was „Die Staatshaushaltung der Athener“ (the state finances of the Atheneans), 2 Volumes, 1817. Member of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences and external member of several other academies. He was the supervisor of Barth’s PhD thesis.
Carl Ritter
7.8.1779 in Quedlinburg – 28.9.1859 in Berlin; an educator in his early years, he became Professor for Erd-, Länder, Völker- und Staatenkunde (Geography, Regional studies, Ethnography and State Science) at the University of Berlin in 1820. Founder of Geography as an independent discipline, was much interested in the geographical causes of historical developments. Until his death president of the Geographical Society of Berlin, which he co-founded in 1828.
Alexander von Humboldt
14.9.1769 in Berlin – 6.5.1859 in Berlin, Explorer who became famous with his extended journey in South and Central America, in his later years he travelled in Russia. Wide range of geographical researches, combining scientific approaches with those from the humanities. He was one of the most famous European intellectuals of his time, later chamberlain of the King of Prussia, in this position he was influential at the Royal Court in Potsdam.
Christian Karl Josias Ritter von Bunsen
25.8.1791 in Korbach – 28.11.1860 in Bonn; classical scholar, published a five-volume work „Ägyptens Stelle in der Weltgeschichte“ (Egypt’s place in world history) 1844-57. Bunsen was a Prussian diplomat, first as the envoy in Rome, from 1841 to 1854 in London. He was the main broker for the participation of Barth, Overweg and Vogel in the British African expediton of 1849.

The Expediton

European Participants

James Richardson
3.11.1809 - 4.3.1851, British missionary and Africa explorer, travelled in 1845 from Tripolis to Ghadames and Ghat. He published a report on his journey: Travels into the great desert of Sahara, London 1849. The first director of the British Expedition to Lake Chad, he died before arriving in Bornu.
Adolf Overweg
24.7.1822 - 27.9.1852, geologist and Africa explorer. Although he grew up in Hamburg like Barth, the two didn’t meet before their journey. Overweg visited Maradi and Gober, before he went to Bornu, where he met Barth again. Later he used the boat the expedition had transported through the desert to explore Lake Chad. He visited the Buduma, the inhabitants of the lake islands, and later he travelled to the South West of the Bornu Empire. He didn’t keep his notes systematically and they proved to be almost unreadable. For this reason no travel report was published with the exception of his notes on his visit to the Buduma. This edition includes all known letters by Overweg.
Eduard Vogel
7.3.1829 – ca. Febr. 1856, spent his early years in Leipzig, where his father was the director of a high school (Gymnasium). He studied astronomy and sciences in Leipzig and after completing his PhD he went to London, where he worked at Bishop’s Observatory from 1851 onwards. In 1853 August Petermann suggested to send Vogel to Africa. At the beginning of 1854 he arrived in Bornu. He traveled to Musgu and succeeded in reaching Yacoba (Bauchi). After Barth returned to Europa he stayed on and travelled to the Benue and in December 1855 to Waday. In February 1856 he was executed on the orders of the Sultan of this country.

African Participants

Mohammed el-Gatroni
(no information on his birth date and death extant), was an inhabitant of the village Gatron in Fezzan, where he became a companion of Barth. Barth regarded him as his most reliable servant, who was with him nearly the whole time.
Ibrahim and Mohammed
two other companions of Barth. In his travel report he showed his growing discontent with them, especially when they took the sides against Barth when he was attacked because of his Christian faith. Barth discharged of them in Kano.
(Frederick Buxton) Abbega
ca. 1836-after 1904, born in the Marghi region, therefore originally no Muslim. He became enslaved and was freed by Overweg. Barth took care of him and Dorugu after Overweg’s died. He went with Barth to Europe where he became a Christian. After he returned to Africa in 1857 he worked with the missionary and later first black Anglican Bishop in Africa, Samuel Crowther. In later years he converted to Islam and was employed by William Balfour Baikie, after he founded the settlement Lokoja at the confluence of rivers Benue and Niger. Abbega worked as a translator and was installed as Chief of Lokoja by the Royal Niger Company in 1896, a position he held until 1904.
(James Henry) Dorugu
ca. 1839-1912, born in Hausland, Muslim, became a slave at the age of about 12 years, was freed by Overweg, whose companion he became. After Overweg’s death Barth took care of him and Abbega. They both accompanied Barth to Timbuktu and later went with him to Europe, where they stayed in his house in London. Both converted to the Christian faith, but Barth was not enthusiastic about this. Dorugu stayed until 1864 with the missionary and specialist of the Hausa language Fredrick James Schön in Chatham. After his return to Africa he worked as a teacher of the Hausa language, i.a. for British colonial staff members.

Important Africans Barth met

Ahmad al-Bakka’i al-Kunti
1803-1865, famous Islamic scholar and political leader of the Kunta in the region of Timbuktu. He was the successor of his brother, father and grandfather, who like him were important religios and political figures. There are about 180 manuscripts connected to his name: poems, religious tracts, letters and fatwahs. He was an adversary of the Tijaniyya of al-Haj Umar. Al-Bakka’i was Barth’s host who protected him during his stay in Timbuktu.
Shehu Umar (Omar) ibn Muhammad al-Amin
Sultan of Bornu 1837 - 1853 and 1854 - 1881, Barth‘s host and protector in Bornu.
Aliyu Babba bin Bello
1804 - 1859, Sultan of Sokoto 1842 - 1859.
Ahmadu Lobbo III
1830-1862, Sultan of Massina 1852-1862, adversary of al-Bakka’i, he claimed supreme authority over Timbuktu and demanded Barth’s extradition.

Perthes Publishers

Perthes; Publishing House in Gotha, founded in 1785 by Justus Perthes (1749-1816). His grandson, Bernhardt Perthes (1821-1857), died from typhoid fever without a successor of age. During the time, when Barth published his major works, there were two managers, Rudolf Esser and Adolf Müller in charge. Both were authorized to sign letters with “Justus Perthes”. Barth’s addressed his letters after Bernhardt Perthes’ death to “Mr. Perthes”, but it is not clear who of the two managers was the actual addressee. The same can be seen in the case of all letters from the publishing house to Barth. Because the actual identity cannot be clarified, for the time after Bernhardt Perthes’ death in the data base only the surname Perthes is given.
August Petermann
18.4.1822 – 25.9.1878, one of the most important Europan cartographers of the 19th Century. In 1847 he worked in London, were for a number of years he had the official title of cartographer to the Queen. In 1854 Perthes succeeded to draw him to Gotha, where Petermann founded his own periodical “Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen“ (Petermann’s Geographical Informations). After Barth’s death he became one of the most important initiators and organisers of exploring expeditions.

Africa Explorers

David Livingstone
19.3.1813 – 1.5.1873, medical doctor and missionary. After some years of mission work in South Africa travelled north. From the middle Zambezi he first moved to the West until he reached Luanda. From there he followed the Zambezi to its mouth in what is today Mozambique. His travel report was published a few months after Barth’s. A second journey was not successful in the main objective, namely to open travel on the Zambezi with a steam boat. Livingstone could not overcome the rapids at Cabora Bassa. He then explored the Shire, a tributary to the Zambezi. He started to his last journey in search for the sources of the Nile when Barth was already dead.
Henri Duveyrier
28.2.1840 in Paris – 25.4.1892 in Sèvres; explorer who mainly did research in North Africa and the Sahara, he published the results of his work. He regarded himself to be a student of Barth and adapted his research methods. After Barth’s death he tried to prepare Barth’s third volume of African vocabularies for publication, but the book never came out.
Theodor von Heuglin
20.3.1824 - 5.11.1876, explorer in Africa and the Arctic, ornithologist. After his first journey to Egypt in 1850 he travelled several times to the region of the upper Nile (today's Sudan and South Sudan) as well as to Ethiopia. He was the director of an expedition sent in 1860 to find out what happened to Edward Vogel. The expedition also was supposed to continuie Vogel's research in the region between Lake Chad and the Nile. When Heuglin did not follow his instructions and went to Ethiopie instead, this lead to a quarrel among the members of the expedition as well as in the organising committee in Europe, notably to a conflict between Barth and Petermann.