Remarkable People

ID #5276

David Livingstone 6 Later Years.

Livingstone was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London and was made a fellow of the society. He lost contact with the outside world for six years and was ill for most of the last four years. Only one of his 44 dispatches made it to Zanzibar. One surviving letter to Horace Waller, made available to the public in 2010, reads: "I am terribly knocked up but this is for your own eye only ... Doubtful if I will live to see you again ..."

Sent by the New York Herald, Stanley found Livingstone in Ujiji on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in October 1871. He greeted Livingstone with the words "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" to which he responded "Yes, and I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you." These words may be a fabrication as Stanley tore the relevant pages out of his diary. Livingstone's account of the encounter does not mention these words. However, the phrase appears in a New York Herald editorial and both the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography quote it without questioning its veracity.

Some in Burundi claim the meeting took place 12-km south of Bujumbura at Mugere, the spot marked by the Livingstone-Stanley Monument.

Despite Stanley's urgings, Livingstone was determined not to leave Africa until his mission was complete. His illness made him confused. He explored the Lualaba and, failing to find connections to the Nile, returned to Lake Bangweulu and its swamps to explore possible rivers flowing northwards.

David Livingstone died in Chief Chitambo's village at Ilala southeast of Lake Bangweulu (Zambia), on 1 May 1873 while praying at his bedside. Britain wanted to give the body a proper ceremony, but the tribe would not return his body. Finally they relented, but cut the heart out and put a note on the body that said, "You can have his body, but his heart belongs in Africa!” Livingstone's heart was buried under a Mvula tree – now site of the Livingstone Memorial. His body together with his journal was carried a thousand miles by his loyal attendants Chuma and Susi, and returned to Britain for burial. After lying in repose at the Royal Geographic Society, his remains were interred at Westminster Abbey.

"And if my disclosures regarding the terrible Ujijian slavery should lead to the suppression of the East Coast slave trade, I shall regard that as a greater matter by far than the discovery of all the Nile sources together." -- Livingstone in a letter to the editor of the New York Herald.

Livingstone's letters, books, and journals stirred up support for the abolition of slavery. However, he became dependent on the slave-traders he wanted to put out of business. He accepted help and hospitality from both Mohamad Bogharib and Mohamad bin Saleh who kept and traded in slaves. Because he was a poor leader, he ended up alone on his last expedition and without expert support. However he did not use the brutal methods of others such as Stanley.

By the late 1860s Livingstone's reputation in Europe had suffered owing to the failure of the his missions as well as the Zambezi Expedition; and his ideas about the source of the Nile were not supported.  His reputation was rehabilitated by Stanley and his newspaper, and by the loyalty of his servants, whose 1000-mile journey carrying his body inspired wonder. Publication of his last journal revealed stubborn determination in the face of suffering.

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Last update: 2014-03-30 20:25
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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