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Timbuktu, formerly also spelled Timbuctoo and Timbuktoo, is a town in the West African nation of Mali situated 15 km north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara. The town is the capital of the Timbuktu Region, one of the eight administrative regions of Mali. Starting out as a seasonal settlement, Timbuktu became a permanent settlement early in the 12th century. After a shift in trading routes, Timbuktu flourished from the trade in salt, gold, ivory and slaves, and became part of the Mali Empire early in the 13th century.
In its Golden Age, the town's numerous Islamic scholars and extensive trading network made possible an important book trade: together with the campuses of the Sankore madrassah, an Islamic university, this established Timbuktu as a scholarly centre in Africa.
Robert Adams was an illiterate American sailor from the city of Hudson, New York. He is regarded as the first white Christian to visit Timbuktu, a city believed until that time to be fashioned from pure gold.
Shipwrecked on the west coast of Africa in 1810, he was taken as a slave by the Moors and, having been captured by the indigenous Toureg, he was brought to Timbuktu and presented to the King. After many trials and tribulations, Adams was redeemed and reached London, where he narrated his tale.
At a time when nothing American was regarded with much interest or favour, British society lampooned Adams, pouring scorn on hits tale. Nonetheless, his story was published by John Murray, leading publisher of the day, and was much discussed by socialites and intellectuals of the day.
More can be read about Robert Adams and his Narrative on Wikipedia. .