David Livingstone

David Livingstone: Exploring the Heart of Africa

David Livingstone, a 19th-century Scottish missionary and explorer, is celebrated for his remarkable journeys through the uncharted territories of Africa. His expeditions were not only a testament to human endurance and determination but also played a pivotal role in revealing the mysteries of the African continent to the Western world. Livingstone’s unique blend of missionary zeal and exploratory fervor left an indelible mark on the pages of history. This article by Academic Block delves into the life, adventures, and legacy of David Livingstone, shedding light on the man who unraveled the heart of Africa.

Early Life

David Livingstone was born on March 19, 1813, in Blantyre, a small town in Scotland. Growing up in a devout family, he developed a strong Christian faith from an early age. Livingstone’s humble beginnings and his father’s influence shaped his character, instilling in him a sense of duty and compassion.

Inspired by stories of missionary work and the desire to spread Christianity, Livingstone decided to become a medical missionary. In pursuit of his goal, he enrolled at Anderson’s College in Glasgow to study medicine and theology. His academic pursuits were supported by his work in a cotton mill, where he labored to fund his education. This period of toil and sacrifice laid the foundation for Livingstone’s commitment to his chosen path.

In 1838, Livingstone completed his medical studies and was ordained as a minister of the Congregational Union of England and Wales. Shortly thereafter, he set sail for Africa with the London Missionary Society, marking the beginning of a journey that would redefine the contours of his life and legacy.

The Zambezi Expedition

One of the most notable chapters in David Livingstone’s life was the Zambezi Expedition, launched in 1858 with the support of the British government and the Royal Geographical Society. The primary objectives of the expedition were to explore the Zambezi River and its surrounding regions, study the natural history of the area, and establish commercial and missionary outposts.

The Zambezi Expedition marked Livingstone’s first major foray into the heart of Africa. Accompanied by a team of scientists, naturalists, and cartographers, Livingstone navigated the treacherous waters of the Zambezi River. His journey took him through the Kalahari Desert, the Victoria Falls, and the Shire Highlands. The expedition provided valuable insights into the geography, flora, and fauna of the region.

However, the expedition faced numerous challenges, including disease, hostile encounters with local tribes, and logistical difficulties. Livingstone’s optimistic vision of combining missionary work with commerce and scientific exploration encountered setbacks, and the expedition did not achieve its intended goals. Despite these challenges, Livingstone’s resilience and unwavering commitment to his mission were evident throughout the journey.

Encounters with the African Peoples

One of Livingstone’s distinctive qualities was his genuine respect for the African people and their cultures. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he sought to engage with local communities, learn from them, and build relationships based on mutual understanding. Livingstone’s interactions with the indigenous populations were characterized by a genuine desire to bridge cultural gaps and promote goodwill.

Livingstone’s approach to missionary work was unconventional for the time. Instead of imposing Western beliefs on the African people, he aimed to integrate Christianity with local customs and traditions. He believed that a gradual and respectful approach would lead to a more meaningful and lasting impact.

Livingstone’s writings and letters reveal his deep appreciation for the resilience, resourcefulness, and hospitality of the African people. His observations went beyond the surface, recognizing the richness of African societies and their potential for growth and development.

The Discovery of Victoria Falls

One of the most iconic moments in Livingstone’s explorations was his discovery of the majestic Victoria Falls on November 16, 1855. The falls, known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya (“The Smoke That Thunders”), captivated Livingstone with their awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur.

Upon witnessing Victoria Falls, Livingstone wrote, “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” He recognized the natural wonder as a testament to the beauty and diversity of the African continent. Livingstone’s vivid descriptions of the falls, recorded in his journals and later shared with the world, contributed significantly to the global understanding and appreciation of this natural marvel.

The Legacy of the Zambezi Expedition

While the Zambezi Expedition did not achieve its intended goals of establishing a successful commercial and missionary presence, its impact was far-reaching. Livingstone’s detailed reports and maps provided valuable information about the geography, flora, and fauna of the region. His writings fueled public interest in Africa and inspired a new generation of explorers and missionaries to venture into the continent.

The expedition’s legacy also extended to the scientific community. Livingstone’s observations and collections contributed to the understanding of African ecosystems and enriched the fields of botany, zoology, and geology. The Royal Geographical Society recognized his contributions by awarding him its Patron’s Medal in 1862.

Livingstone’s efforts to expose the brutalities of the slave trade during his Zambezi Expedition were equally significant. He witnessed the devastating impact of the slave trade on African communities and became a vocal advocate for its abolition. His anti-slavery stance garnered support from abolitionist circles and raised awareness about the need to address this inhumane practice.

The Transcontinental Journey

Following the Zambezi Expedition, Livingstone embarked on an even more ambitious undertaking—the quest to trace the source of the Nile River. His vision was to navigate the entire length of the African continent, from the southern tip to the northernmost point, in order to unravel the mysteries of the continent’s geography.

In 1866, Livingstone set out on this transcontinental journey. His route took him through uncharted territories, dense jungles, and challenging landscapes. The hardships he faced during this expedition were unparalleled. Disease, lack of supplies, and the absence of communication with the outside world took a toll on his physical and mental well-being.

Livingstone’s isolation from the Western world during this period gave rise to widespread concern about his well-being. Rumors of his demise circulated, prompting the New York Herald newspaper to commission Welsh-American explorer Henry Morton Stanley to find Livingstone and report on his condition.

The famous encounter between Livingstone and Stanley took place on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1869. The words Stanley uttered upon meeting Livingstone—”Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”—have become immortalized in history. The meeting not only dispelled the rumors of Livingstone’s death but also highlighted the challenges and sacrifices endured by explorers in their quest for knowledge.

Livingstone’s Later Years and Death

Despite the hardships of his transcontinental journey, Livingstone remained committed to his mission and continued to explore and document the African continent. His health, however, deteriorated significantly. Livingstone suffered from a combination of tropical diseases, including dysentery and malaria, as well as the physical toll of years of arduous travel.

In 1873, Livingstone succumbed to his ailments in the village of Chitambo, in present-day Zambia. His loyal attendants, Susi and Chuma, preserved his body and carried his remains over a thousand miles to the coastal town of Bagamoyo, where they were eventually transported to England.

Livingstone’s death was met with a profound sense of loss, both in Britain and abroad. His contributions to African exploration, missionary work, and the fight against the slave trade were widely acknowledged. The news of his passing sparked renewed interest in the African continent and a commitment to carry forward his legacy.

Legacy and Impact

David Livingstone’s legacy extends beyond the maps he drew, the rivers he navigated, and the lands he traversed. His impact on Africa, exploration, and missionary work reverberates through history and continues to influence contemporary perspectives.

Promotion of Geographic Knowledge: Livingstone’s meticulous mapping and documentation of African geography significantly contributed to the expansion of Western knowledge about the continent. His reports and journals provided a wealth of information about previously unexplored regions, paving the way for subsequent explorers and settlers.

Advocacy for Abolition and Humanitarian Causes: Livingstone’s exposure to the horrors of the slave trade fueled his commitment to the abolitionist cause. His efforts to shed light on the atrocities of the slave trade resonated with the public and influenced anti-slavery sentiments. Livingstone’s legacy includes his role as a humanitarian who sought to alleviate the suffering of African communities.

Influence on Subsequent Explorers: Livingstone’s pioneering spirit inspired a new generation of explorers who sought to follow in his footsteps. His emphasis on understanding and respecting local cultures set a precedent for future explorers to engage with indigenous communities rather than merely observe from a distance.

Impact on Missionary Work: Livingstone’s approach to missionary work, characterized by cultural sensitivity and a desire to integrate Christianity with local customs, had a lasting impact. His legacy influenced subsequent missionaries who recognized the importance of adapting their methods to the cultural contexts in which they worked.

Promotion of Commerce and Development: While Livingstone’s dreams of establishing successful commercial ventures in Africa were not fully realized, his advocacy for economic development in the region laid the groundwork for future initiatives. His vision of combining missionary work with commerce anticipated the interconnectedness of humanitarian and economic endeavors in later years.

Literary Contributions: Livingstone’s writings, including his books and personal letters, continue to provide valuable insights into 19th-century Africa. His eloquent descriptions of landscapes, people, and cultures captivate readers and offer a window into the challenges and triumphs of exploration in a bygone era.

Final Words:

David Livingstone’s life was a testament to the power of unwavering commitment, resilience, and the pursuit of knowledge. His explorations not only unveiled the mysteries of the African continent but also fueled public imagination and interest in a part of the world previously unknown to many in the West.

Livingstone’s legacy extends beyond the tangible outcomes of his expeditions. His impact on geographic knowledge, missionary endeavors, abolitionist causes, and subsequent explorations has left an indelible mark on history. While his methods and approaches may be subject to contemporary scrutiny, there is no denying the profound influence Livingstone had on shaping Western perceptions of Africa and inspiring future generations to explore, understand, and engage with the diverse cultures of the continent. Please provide your comments below, it will help us in improving this article. Thanks for reading!

Final Years of David Livingstone

Transcontinental Journey (1866–1873): After the conclusion of the Zambezi Expedition in 1864, Livingstone embarked on a transcontinental journey with the goal of tracing the source of the Nile River and exploring the entire length of Africa from west to east. This journey was marked by numerous hardships, including illness, lack of supplies, and challenges in navigating uncharted territories.

Exploration and Missionary Work: Livingstone’s primary objectives during his transcontinental journey were to gather geographical information, document natural resources, and continue his missionary activities. He aimed to investigate the possibilities of opening up trade routes that could replace the slave trade with legitimate commerce, thereby improving the economic conditions of the local populations.

Illness and Isolation: Livingstone faced frequent bouts of illness during his journey, including attacks of tropical diseases such as malaria and dysentery. His health deteriorated significantly, and he became increasingly isolated from the outside world. The challenges of communication in the interior of Africa meant that news of Livingstone’s well-being reached the outside world sporadically.

Meeting with Henry Morton Stanley (1871): Livingstone’s prolonged isolation raised concerns about his safety. In an effort to locate him, the New York Herald newspaper commissioned Welsh-American explorer Henry Morton Stanley to find Livingstone. The famous meeting between Livingstone and Stanley occurred on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1869. However, Livingstone chose to continue his explorations rather than return with Stanley.

Continued Exploration: Livingstone pressed on with his explorations, reaching Lake Bangweulu in present-day Zambia. He hoped to discover the source of the Nile River and believed that such a discovery would help end the slave trade.

Death and Legacy: David Livingstone died on May 1, 1873, in Chief Chitambo’s village near Lake Bangweulu, present-day Zambia. The exact cause of his death is uncertain, but it is believed to be a combination of illness, exhaustion, and possibly a stroke. Livingstone’s loyal attendants, Susi and Chuma, carried his body over a thousand miles to the coast. His remains were eventually transported to England, where he was buried with full honors at Westminster Abbey.

Impact on Exploration and Abolition: Despite the challenges and hardships he faced in his final years, Livingstone’s legacy lived on. His writings, discoveries, and advocacy against the slave trade continued to influence subsequent generations of explorers and humanitarian activists. Livingstone’s dedication to exploration, missionary work, and the fight against the slave trade left an enduring impact on the history of Africa and the Western perception of the continent.

The final years of David Livingstone’s life reflect the perseverance and unwavering commitment of a man who dedicated himself to the betterment of Africa and the alleviation of human suffering. His legacy as a pioneering explorer, missionary, and advocate for justice endures in the annals of African history.

Some excerpts from the book written by David Livingstone

On the Zambezi Expedition and Victoria Falls:

Excerpt from Livingstone’s journal, November 16, 1855: “The most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa… the curtain of water stretched across to the opposite cliff, and the middle part, from which the spray rose, was hidden from our sight. The opposite cliffs, and the country for 15 or 20 miles, were one mass of bright green foliage; the moisture-laden atmosphere, on reaching the dry rocks, shrouded them with a white crust of salt.”

On Interactions with African Peoples:

From Livingstone’s letters to friends and family: “I have found the people here to possess a depth of kindness and hospitality that transcends the barriers of language and culture. In their simplicity, I see a richness of character and a communal spirit that we, in our more ‘civilized’ societies, could learn much from.”

On the Slave Trade:

Excerpt from Livingstone’s letters and speeches advocating for abolition: “The scenes I have witnessed along the trade routes are beyond the scope of human decency. The chains, the cries, the anguish of the captives – it is a stain on the conscience of humanity. We must unite in our efforts to eradicate this inhumane practice and bring justice to those who suffer.”

On the Transcontinental Journey:

From Livingstone’s diary entries during his transcontinental journey: “The path ahead is unknown, and the challenges seem insurmountable. Yet, the spirit of exploration that burns within me propels me forward. Every step is a step into the unknown, and with each stride, I hope to unveil a small fragment of the vast tapestry that is this magnificent continent.”

On the Indigenous Flora and Fauna:

Excerpt from Livingstone’s notes on botanical discoveries: “The flora of Africa is a symphony of colors and forms, a testament to the intricate design of nature. In these remote corners, I have stumbled upon plants and flowers that defy description, each one a marvel in its own right. Our understanding of the natural world is expanded with every specimen collected.”

On Cultural Sensitivity in Missionary Work:

From Livingstone’s writings on missionary philosophy: “The key to spreading the message of Christianity lies not in imposing our ways on others but in understanding and embracing the unique cultural tapestry of each community. Only then can we hope to build bridges of understanding and forge connections that transcend mere religious doctrine.”

This Article will answer your questions like:

  • What was David Livingstone famous for?
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  • Who discovered Victoria Falls?
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  • What was David Livingstone’s famous quote?
David Livingstone
Personal Details
Date of Birth : 19th March 1451
Died : 1st May 1873
Place of Birth : Blantyre, Scotland
Father : Neil Livingstone
Mother : Agnes Hunter Livingstone
Spouse/Partners : Mary Moffat
Children : Robert, Agnes, Thomas, Elizabeth, Anna Mary, Oswell
Alma Mater : University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, Scotland
Professions : Scottish Missionary, Physician, and Explorer

Famous quotes by David Livingstone

“I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”

“I will go anywhere, provided it be forward.”

“All I can add in my solitude is, may heaven’s rich blessing come down on everyone, American, English, or Turk, who will help to heal this open sore of the world.”

“I determined never to stop until I had come to the end and achieved my purpose.”

“I will place no value on anything I have or may possess except in relation to the kingdom of Christ. If anything will advance the interests of that kingdom, it shall be given away or kept only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time and eternity.”

“The farther I go, the more I am convinced that there is no education which one can get from books and costly apparatus that is equal to that which can be got from contact with great men and women.”

“I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.”

“Sympathy is no substitute for action.”

“Nothing earthly will make me give up my work in despair.”

“I am a missionary, heart and soul. God had an only Son, and He was a missionary and a physician. I am a poor, poor imitation of Him, or wish to be.”

Facts on David Livingstone

Birth and Early Life: David Livingstone was born on March 19, 1813, in Blantyre, Scotland, in a devout family with a strong Christian influence.

Medical Training and Missionary Calling: Livingstone worked in a cotton mill to fund his education at Anderson’s College in Glasgow, where he studied medicine and theology. He was ordained as a minister of the Congregational Union of England and Wales in 1838.

London Missionary Society: In 1840, Livingstone was sent to Africa by the London Missionary Society to work as a medical missionary.

Zambezi Expedition (1858–1864): Livingstone led the Zambezi Expedition, sponsored by the British government and the Royal Geographical Society, to explore the Zambezi River and its surroundings. The expedition’s goals included studying the natural history of the region and establishing commercial and missionary outposts.

Discovery of Victoria Falls: On November 16, 1855, Livingstone became the first European to witness the majestic Victoria Falls, which he named after Queen Victoria.

Opposition to the Slave Trade: Livingstone was a staunch opponent of the slave trade and used his explorations to gather information and advocate for its abolition. His efforts played a role in raising awareness about the brutalities of the slave trade.

Transcontinental Journey (1866–1873): Livingstone embarked on a transcontinental journey with the goal of tracing the source of the Nile River and exploring the entire length of Africa. This journey marked one of the most challenging and arduous periods of his life.

Meeting with Henry Morton Stanley: Livingstone’s prolonged isolation during his transcontinental journey led to concerns about his well-being. In 1869, explorer Henry Morton Stanley was sent to find him. The famous meeting between Livingstone and Stanley occurred on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1869.

Later Years and Death: Livingstone’s health deteriorated significantly during his later expeditions, and he succumbed to illness on May 1, 1873, in Chitambo, present-day Zambia. His body was carried by loyal attendants, Susi and Chuma, to the coast and eventually transported to England.

Legacy and Commemorations: Livingstone’s legacy includes his contributions to geographic knowledge, missionary work, and the fight against the slave trade. Several monuments and institutions, including the Livingstone Museum in Zambia, commemorate his life and achievements.

Literary Contributions: Livingstone authored several books, including “Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa,” which documented his experiences and observations.

Cultural Sensitivity: Livingstone was known for his respectful approach to engaging with local African cultures, attempting to integrate Christianity with indigenous customs.

David Livingstone’s family life

Marriage to Mary Moffat: David Livingstone married Mary Moffat on January 2, 1845. Mary was the daughter of fellow missionary Robert Moffat, and the couple met while Livingstone was studying theology in London. Mary Moffat was a strong and resilient woman who shared Livingstone’s commitment to missionary work.

Mary Moffat Livingstone’s Role: Mary played a crucial role in supporting David Livingstone’s work, both before and during their time in Africa. She shared his passion for missionary endeavors and adapted to the challenging conditions of life in Africa. Despite facing difficulties such as illness and the loss of their children, Mary remained steadfast in her commitment to the mission.

Children: David and Mary Livingstone had several children. Their family expanded as they navigated the challenges of life in Africa. Some of their children were born in Africa, and the family faced the hardships and health risks associated with the environment.

Separations and Reunions: Livingstone’s commitment to exploration and missionary work often led to extended periods of separation from his family. The difficulties of communication and travel during the 19th century meant that Livingstone was sometimes isolated for long stretches. The family experienced joyous reunions but also endured the anxieties of Livingstone’s extended absences.

Living Conditions: The Livingstone family faced harsh living conditions in Africa, including exposure to tropical diseases such as malaria. The lack of medical facilities and the challenges of providing for a growing family in remote locations were constant concerns.

Loss and Tragedy: The Livingstone family experienced the profound loss of children due to diseases prevalent in Africa. These tragedies took an emotional toll on both David and Mary Livingstone. Livingstone’s commitment to his work, combined with the harsh conditions, contributed to the challenges his family faced.

Impact on Mary Livingstone: Mary Livingstone’s health deteriorated significantly during her time in Africa. She faced the loss of children and coped with the physical and emotional challenges of life in a foreign and often unforgiving environment. Mary passed away on April 27, 1862, at the Shupanga mission on the Zambezi River. Her death was a profound loss for David Livingstone.

Languages known to David Livingstone

English: Livingstone, being a Scottish native, was fluent in English. English was the language of his education, writings, and communication with fellow Europeans.

SeTswana: Livingstone acquired proficiency in SeTswana, a Bantu language spoken by the Tswana people in southern Africa. His ability to speak the local languages was crucial for his interactions with the communities he encountered.

SeSotho: Livingstone also learned SeSotho, another Bantu language spoken by the Basotho people in southern Africa. His linguistic skills were instrumental in fostering relationships and understanding the cultures of the people he encountered.

Portuguese: Livingstone had a basic knowledge of Portuguese, the colonial language of Mozambique, Angola, and parts of southern Africa. This linguistic ability facilitated communication with Portuguese-speaking traders and officials in these regions.

Arabic: Livingstone acquired a basic understanding of Arabic, which was valuable during his interactions with Arab traders and explorers in East Africa. Arabic was a widely used language for commerce and communication in the region.

Countries Visited by David Livingstone

South Africa: Livingstone spent a considerable amount of time in southern Africa, particularly in the region that is now part of modern-day South Africa.

Botswana (formerly Bechuanaland): Livingstone explored the region of present-day Botswana, then known as Bechuanaland. He undertook significant journeys through the Kalahari Desert and the Kalahari Basin.

Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia): Livingstone traveled through what is now Zimbabwe, where he made important discoveries and documented the geography of the region.

Mozambique: The Zambezi Expedition (1858–1864) led Livingstone to explore parts of present-day Mozambique, particularly along the Zambezi River.

Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia): Livingstone spent a considerable amount of time in what is now Zambia. He explored the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, and the surrounding areas.

Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika): Livingstone’s transcontinental journey took him through parts of present-day Tanzania, including Lake Tanganyika.

Malawi (formerly Nyasaland): Livingstone explored the region that is now Malawi, where he discovered and named Lake Malawi (formerly Lake Nyasa).

Angola: Livingstone ventured into the southwestern part of the continent, exploring parts of what is now Angola.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire): Livingstone’s transcontinental journey also took him through parts of the Congo, then known as Zaire.

Burundi and Rwanda: Livingstone likely traveled through parts of Burundi and Rwanda during his explorations, although the details of his route in these areas are less extensively documented.

Books written by David Livingstone

“Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa” (1857): Livingstone’s most famous work, this book provides an account of his early travels and missionary activities in southern Africa. It details his experiences with various African peoples, descriptions of the landscapes, and his initial discoveries.

“Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and Its Tributaries” (1865): Published as a two-volume set, this work is based on Livingstone’s Zambezi Expedition. It covers his exploration of the Zambezi River, the Shire River, and the surrounding regions. The narrative includes details on the geography, flora, fauna, and encounters with local tribes.

“The Zambesi and Its Tributaries: And, The Discovery of Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa” (1865): This book, often considered a companion volume to “Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi,” delves into the specific discoveries of Lakes Shirwa and Nyassa (Lake Malawi). It provides additional insights into Livingstone’s geographical findings.

“Livingstone’s Africa: Perilous Adventures and Extensive Discoveries in the Interior of Africa” (1874): Compiled by Horace Waller, Livingstone’s son-in-law, and based on Livingstone’s writings, this book serves as a posthumous collection of his letters, journal entries, and reports. It offers a comprehensive overview of Livingstone’s explorations and mission work.

“Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa, from 1865 to His Death” (1874): Edited by Horace Waller, this book contains Livingstone’s final journal entries, covering the period from 1865 until his death in 1873. It provides insights into the challenges he faced during his transcontinental journey and his thoughts on various aspects of exploration and missionary work.

“The Personal Life of David Livingstone Chiefly from His Unpublished Journals and Correspondence in the Possession of His Family” (1880): Edited by William Garden Blaikie, this biography draws on Livingstone’s personal journals and letters to provide a more intimate portrait of the man behind the explorer. It delves into his family life, personal struggles, and motivations.

Academic References on David Livingstone

“Livingstone” by Tim Jeal (1973): This biography is widely regarded as one of the most comprehensive works on David Livingstone, drawing on extensive research and newly available sources.

“David Livingstone: Man of Prayer and Action” by C. Silvester Horne (1923): Written by a contemporary of Livingstone, this biography provides insights into Livingstone’s character, emphasizing his religious beliefs and missionary zeal.

“David Livingstone: Explorer and Missionary” by Andrew C. Ross (2012): Ross offers a detailed examination of Livingstone’s life and explores the intersections of his roles as an explorer and a missionary.

“David Livingstone: Africa’s Trailblazer” by Janet Benge and Geoff Benge (2000): This book, part of the Christian Heroes Then & Now series, provides an accessible overview of Livingstone’s life and contributions.

“Missionary Life in Central Africa: Letters and Journals of the Late David Livingstone” (1865): This collection of letters and journals provides firsthand accounts of Livingstone’s experiences in Africa. Many contemporary journal articles analyze these primary sources.

“Re-examining the Role of David Livingstone in the Suppression of the East African Slave Trade” by John M. MacKenzie (1986): This article critically evaluates Livingstone’s impact on efforts to suppress the slave trade in East Africa.

“David Livingstone, the Royal Geographical Society and the British Central Africa Settlement Scheme, 1861-74” by Brian Gardner (1970): This article explores Livingstone’s interactions with the Royal Geographical Society and his involvement in the British Central Africa Settlement Scheme.

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