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I speak of Africa

Livingstone

Portrait of David Lingstone from his Missionary travels and researches in South Africa: including a sketch of sixteen years’ residence in the interior of Africa and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the West coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the Eastern ocean. London: John Murray, 1857 [Miscellaneous Collection DT1110.L7 LIV]Portrait of David Lingstone from his Missionary travels and researches in South Africa: including a sketch of sixteen years’ residence in the interior of Africa and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the West coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the Eastern ocean. London: John Murray, 1857 [Miscellaneous Collection DT1110.L7 LIV]‘Dr Livingstone’s book we need not characterise. It is known of all men, and admired most for the simple manliness with which it tells a noble tale’.

Thus an anonymous reviewer described in The Examiner the book which was destined to become the best-selling travel account of the nineteenth century. Missionary travels describes David Livingstone’s experiences as a medical missionary in southern Africa and his several expeditions into the interior, culminating in the first ever coast-to-coast crossing of the African continent by a European.

Soon after the publication of his book, Livingstone returned to Africa with his brother on a government expedition to explore the Zambezi River. Livingstone’s aim was to use the Zambezi as a way into the centre of Africa to open it up to commerce and missionary work. In a letter to Lord Clarendon, the then foreign secretary, Livingstone wrote: ‘Because I believe we can by legitimate commerce, in the course of a few years, put an entire stop to the traffic in slaves over a large extent of territory.’

The Zambezi expedition was not a great success and was recalled after five years. Livingstone, however, had managed to gather a large amount of geographical and scientific information and had discovered Lake Nyasa. He also gained first-hand knowledge of the Arab slave trade, which was still actively pursued in East Africa. He published his experiences in Narrative of an expedition to the Zambesi and its tributaries and of the discovery of the Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, 1858-1864, written together with his brother Charles.

In 1866 Livingstone left for his third expedition with the intention to explore the watershed west of Lake Tanganyika, where he suspected the true source of the Nile to be. During this trip, contact with him was lost and nobody knew what had become of him until Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904), who had been sent out by the New York Herald to look for him, found him at Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika and uttered the famous words: ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’

Livingstone died on this last trip in 1873.

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