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Captain John Speke Collection

Identifier: MS-3713

  • Staff Only

This collection consists of one letter and one photograph. The letter, written by Captain John Hanning Speke on May 31, 1864, and addressed to a Mr. Layand, explains his initial request to explore the headwaters of the Nile River in central Africa. Speke writes he has already written the official report as requested by Lord Maples, and also explains his desire to embark on the proposed trip, which will be his first as a British Envoy.

The undated photograph is of Captain Speke.


  • 1864 May 31


The language of this material is English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


0.1 Linear Feet


This collection contains a signed letter dated May 31, 1864, written by English officer and explorer Captain John Hanning Speke about his proposal to explore of the headwaters of the Nile River in Central Africa. Also included is one undated photograph of Captain Speke.

Biographical/Historical Note

Captain John Hanning Speke was born on May 4, 1827 in England. In 1844, he was stationed with the British army in India, serving in the first Anglo-Sikh War. Under Richard Burton, in 1850 he traveled to Somalia to explore the continent of Africa only to be wounded and sent to England to recover and serve in the Crimean War.

In 1856, Speke and Burton traveled to central Africa to search for the great lakes rumored to be the source of the Nile River. After both falling ill several times to disease, Speke discovered Lake Victoria and both returned to England. Speke was then chosen to lead an expedition by the Royal Geographical Society in 1860 and locate the source of the Nile. In 1862, Speke decided the Nile in fact flowed from Lake Victoria.

On September 17 1864, Speke died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound.


This collection consists of a single folder.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA