David Livingstone Trust

Exploring and Returning

The aim of the Trans–Africa expedition was to find an easy route into the heart of the continent which could bring Christianity and Commerce to Africa, a legitimate alternative to the slave trade.

Exploring Africa

David Livingstone’s expeditions began in earnest in 1852 when his wife and children returned to Britain and he was able to embark on an expedition which would see him cross the continent. David Livingstone embarked on a journey from Cape Town which would lead him into landscape which had never before been seen by Europeans. His journey allowed him to fill in the map of central, Southern Africa which had previously been blank. The expedition crossed a wide range of territories and landscapes - he was the first European to reach Victoria Falls - and groups of people, some of whom were hostile to David Livingstone and his companions, all of which he recorded in his detailed writings and maps. David Livingstone was the first European to reach Victoria Falls .

First Return to London

David Livingstone returned to the UK a celebrity in 1856 and during this brief visit home public interest in his work increased and his book, MissionaryTravels and Researches in South Africa, was an enormous and instant success, but because of this he had limited time to spend with his wife and children. Whilst at home he worked on plans and funding to return to Africa.

Zambezi Expedition

The purpose of the expedition was to explore the river and surrounding regions to look for opportunities for trade and development. This fitted with David Livingstone’s belief in Commerce and Christianity as a means of improving the lives of local populations and providing an alternative to the slave trade. Unfortunately David Livingstone faced numerous challenges during this expedition, his relationship with his team, the ravage of disease and the failures of his equipment. Overall the Zambezi expedition was considered a failure. However, there were positive aspects which included the collection of natural specimens and the recording of territory. Further tragedy struck when Mary went out to meet her husband and developed malaria and died.

Second Return to London

David Livingstone’s second return to London in 1864 was plagued by accounts of his failure. Public opinion shifted to Livingstone as the fallen hero whose failure spanned financial, religious and scientific sectors. This meant he spent much of the year at home with his family, getting to know his children again.

Nile Expedition

David Livingstone’s third and final exploration into Africa was to resolve the mystery of the source of the Nile and David Livingstone was determined to use the expedition as a vehicle to campaign against the East African slave trade. During this time he witnessed a massacre of 400 women and children and when his account of what happened reached the UK (by Stanley) it caused public outcry and contributed towards the British Government’s decision to force the end of the East African slave trade.

David Livingstone was unwell for most of the trip due to much of the exploring being in damp, swampy regions which impacted his health. Other set backs included the looting of supplies and the failure of a supply drop meant that he was destitute for much of the time.

Although he did identify one of the sources of the Congo he didn’t manage to locate the source of the Nile. He was eventually found by Stanley who brought him supplies and gave him a new lease of life.

Last Expedition, Death and Funeral

David Livingstone lived a long and purposeful life, with faith driving every act and decision. He died during the night at Chitambo’s Village aged 60.

When Livingstone died in the heart of Africa, his companions, James Chuma and Abdullah Susi made the decision to return his body to England to be buried with his own people, a decision which led them to make a difficult and dangerous 1400 mile journey, taking 9 months. They had to prepare the body for travel and the organs were removed and buried under Mvula tree, the body was then covered in salt and left to dry in the sun for two weeks. After a treacherous journey the companions arrived in England in April 1874 and David Livingstone’s funeral took place on 18th April in a packed Westminster Abbey, paid for by Government and with the Queen’s Carriage in attendance. It's worth noting that in all likelihood it was the direct opposite of what Livingstone would have wanted for himself.

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