David Livingstone: Humanitarian or Hypocrite?

Michelle Liebst looks at how the career of the great explorer of Africa reflects the wider failings of Victorian imperialism.

The Last Mile: Livingstone is carried off to die at his home in Ujiji, Tanganyika. Chromolithograph, c. 1880. AKG
The Last Mile: Livingstone is carried off to die at his home in Ujiji, Tanganyika. Chromolithograph, c. 1880. AKG

2013 marks the bicentenary of the birth of David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary, doctor, explorer, agent of empire and anti-slavery activist, who travelled extensively through southern equatorial Africa. His memory will be celebrated with a series of events taking place mainly in Britain, Zambia and Malawi. The Livingstone story has inspired a complex range of emotional responses since his death in 1873, from triumphalism and admiration to regret and suspicion, sometimes all at the same time.

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