The Last Blank Spaces
Exploring Africa and Australia
Quality research, innovative and provocative. American historian Dane Kennedy’s The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia delivers a carefully written comparative history of British exploration that challenges romantic conceptualisations of explorer and Indigenous relations in the nineteenth century. The very title ‘The Last Blank Spaces’ conjures up images of terra nullius. The final frontiers in British exploration of two vast continents, an emptiness “to advance imperial agendas, to pre-empt political rivals, to inspire patriotic pride, to discover natural resources, to promote commercial interests and further humanitarian objectives” (p. 60). The Last Blank Spaces fits into a genre of Indigenous, colonial ethnography when the British explorer is the central character and the Indigenous person is a support, but the book differs from conventional Western accounts. Kennedy writes that it is a book that “traces the development of exploration from an idea to a practice, from a practice to an outcome, and from an outcome to a myth” (p. 23).