David Livingstone Trust

Biography

David Livingstone - His incredible story resonates with people from all walks of life, including Blantyre audiences in Scotland and Malawi who continue to face socio- economic hardships as Livingstone did. His aspirational life is a source of pride for the people of Lanarkshire but his influence stretches far beyond his home town. With his heart buried in Zambia and his body resting in London, plus an array of Livingstone - related sites and collections located across the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa, his life and legacy is truly of global significance.

David Livingstone’s Birthplace is a natural meeting place for African visitors to Scotland, providing the historical context to establish and strengthen our international relationships. Recent visitors have included the President of Malawi, the Vice President of Zambia and members of African Commonwealth Games teams. For many Sub-Saharan Africans the experience of coming to the birthplace of David Livingstone is one of spiritual pilgrimage. Indeed, many Malawians from Blantyre (named after Livingstone’s birthplace) remark that their visit is like a homecoming.

Livingstone’s friendships with the people of Sub-Saharan Africa have created enduring relationships for Scotland, particularly between Malawi and Zambia. This has resulted in many cross-cultural partnerships with schools, academic institutions, churches, governments, hospitals and international development organisations.

NameDavid Livingstone
Date and Place of Birth19 March 1813, Shuttle Row, Blantyre, Scotland
Date, Place and Cause of Death1 May 1873, Chief Chitambo's Village (Zambia), Malaria and Dynsentery.
Education and EmploymentEarly education at Blantyre Works School whilst working in Henry Monteith & Co. Cotton Mill from age 10. He later described the “life of toil” he endured as a child (14 hrs a day in a factory, plus 2 hrs of school, plus 2hrs private study, 6 days a week) as good preparation for his life & work in Africa. He then studied at Anderson's College (University of Strathclyde) before being accepted into the London Missionary Society and continuing his medical studies at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School.
InterestsHe was fascinated by people and the natural world, and skilled in a huge range of tasks. He was a self- taught navigator, linguist, natural historian, cartographer, author and anthropologist. He also qualified as a medical doctor and missionary.
BeliefsHe was a devout Christian. His desire to spread Christianity and serve God underpinned his actions throughout his life. He started his African life off as a conventional missionary (who would settle with one group of people & slowly bring them to Christianity over many years) but an early encounter with the slave trade & realisation of the immense size of Africa marked a change in the way he worked.
Missionary Work in AfricaFollowing recommendation from the experienced Missionary in Africa, Robert Moffat, Livingstone travelled to North of Bechuanaland. There he was attacked by a lion, while trying to defend the village's sheep and he was left disabled on his left arm for the rest of his life. Livingstone was respectful of the chiefs and tribes and although he preached the christian message he did not force it upon them.
Transcontinental JourneyLivingstone was one of the first Westeners to make a transcontinental journey across Africa. It was a high risk journey with constant threats such as malaria, dysentery, sleeping sickness as well as opposition from powerful chiefs and tribes. Part of Livingstone's explorations success was that he travelled with a small party of people, he did not look like a slave raiding party and he was able to reassure chiefs that he was not a threat.
Following Missionary WorkThe abolition of the African Slave trade became his primary motivation and Livingstone resigned from the London Missionary Society and focussed his time on finding routes for commercial trade which would displace slave trade routes.
Source of the NileMany explorers had tried and failed to find the source of the Nile and Livingstone embarked on a journey frought with hardship and illness. More than 5 years later, Livingstone witnessed hundreds of Africans being massacred by slavers, being so distraught by what he witnessed he ended his mission to find the source of the Nile.
Commerse and ChristianityHe came to believe that his role was to find an “easy” route into the heart of Africa using the rivers as “navigable highways”. Once discovered many other missionaries would come spreading Christianity while crucially traders would bring a “legitimate alternative” to the slave trade. Livingstone dedicated the rest of his life to the idea of bringing Commerce and Christianity to Africa.
EqualityLivingstone was respectful of African culture and traditions, even some which were in conflict with Christian teachings (such as polygamy). Livingstone was not racist (unlike many of the Europeans active in Africa at the time) and believed in human equality (though these aren’t words he would have used). His campaign against the East African slave trade was ultimately successful, and the slave market at Zanzibar was finally closed just 6 weeks after his death.
FamilyLivingstone is often criticised for his apparent abandonment of his family. In the early years, Livingstone travelled extensively with his wife Mary, and their young children. Some of these journeys seem grossly irresponsible & at times the party were in grave danger. Mary and the children came to live with Livingstone’s parents and family who had by now moved to Hamilton, where they had a miserable time. Livingstone loved his wife and children, but there is no doubt they paid a high price for his mission. Of course that is a modern perspective, we don’t know what they really thought about it.
Time in AfricaLivingstone spent 30 years in Africa, during which he made 3 major expeditions. The first, The Trans Africa Expedition (1853-56) was the most successful and captured the Victorian public’s imagination. His best-selling account of the journey, “Missionary Travels & Researches in South Africa’ sold over 70,000 copies, and Livingstone became a major celebrity. This fame and popularity endured until the 1960s/70s.
Geographical DiscoveriesDavid Livingstone is thought to be the first European to see Lake Ngami, Lake Malawi, Lake Bangweulu and Mosi-oa-Tunya (he renamed Victoria Falls). He was also instrumental in detailing information on Lake Tanganyika, Lake Mweru and many rivers allowing for many large regions to be mapped.
Henry Morton StanleyAfter losing contact with the outside world for six years Stanley, from the New York Herald newspaper, found Livingstone at the shores of Lake Tanganyika and the famous words where exchanged there. Stanley said "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" to which he responded "Yes, I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you."
DeathLivingstone died of malaria and dynsentery on 1 May 1873. His faithful followers, Susi and Chuma, prepared his body and made the difficult 1000 mile journey to the East African coast to deliver Livingstone's body to British officials. Livingstone is buried at Westminster Abbey.
LegacyGeographical discoveries, inspirational views and actions on the abolition of the slave trade, explorers and missionaries. He opened up Central Africa to missionaries who initiated the education and health care for Africans, and trade by the African Lakes Company. He was held in some esteem by many African chiefs and local people and his name facilitated relations between them and the British. Livingstone was used to justify British involvement in Africa . Livingstone’s name therefore became associated with Empire, and as society changed in the 1960s and 1970s, Livingstone fell out of favour. Livingstone himself sought British involvement in Africa to support development but not the wholescale colonisation that took place. Livingstone remains well respected in many African countries (particularly Zambia and Malawi) because of his respect for Africa and Africans, his belief in human equality, the campaign against the slave trade and because he opened Africa to Christianity.
Motto"Christianity, Commerce and Civilization"