Livingstone, David

Reference code(s): GB 0162 MSS.Affr.s.18 and Mss Afr.t.9
Held at: Bodleian Library - Special Collections
Domain: archival
Title: Livingstone, David
Date(s) of contents: 1841-72
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium: Photocopies of 45 letters


Name of creator(s):

Administrative/Biographical history: David Livingstone: born in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland, 1813; his surname was originally spelt Livingston; aged ten, began work in a local cotton mill, but attended its school in the evenings; achieved university entrance qualifications and attended the Andersonian Medical School, Glasgow, supporting himself by working in the mill for part of the year; studied at the Theological Academy, Glasgow; accepted for service by the London Missionary Society (LMS); went to London for theological training and continued his medical studies there, 1838; returned to Glasgow to take his final medical exams; licentiate of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow University, 1840; appointed LMS missionary to Bechuanaland; ordained at Albion Chapel, London, and sailed for South Africa, 1840; arrived in Cape Town and travelled to Kuruman, Bechuanaland, 1841; served for a time under the LMS missionary Robert Moffat among the Tswana and became fluent in their language; married Moffat's daughter Mary, 1844; made various journeys in southern Africa and became determined to evangelise to the peoples living beyond white-dominated southern Africa, 1840s; his party was the first group of Europeans to see Lake Ngami, 1849; sent his family back to Scotland, 1852; travelled north to Zambia, walking with Kololo companions west to Luanda on the coast of Angola and subsequently walking across Africa to Mozambique, 1852-1856; LLD, University of Glasgow, 1854; awarded the Queen's Gold Medal by the Royal Geographical Society, 1855; saw the Victoria Falls, 1855; hailed a hero on his return to Britain, 1856; DCL, University of Oxford, 1856; retired from the LMS, 1857; elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, 1858; undertook a government-backed expedition to the lands of the Zambezi River and Lake Malawi, 1858-1864; the Royal Geographical Society sent him back to Africa to explore the headwaters of the Nile, Congo, and Zambezi Rivers with his Kololo companions, 1866; his whereabouts were often unknown for months at a time in Europe; he became increasingly concerned by the devastation the slave trade was spreading in the region; he was located by H M Stanley of the New York Herald at Ujiji and greeted with the famous words 'Dr Livingstone, I presume?', 1871; died at Chitambo's village, Zambia, 1873; his heart was buried there by his African companions, who carried his mummified body to Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), from where it was returned to Westminster Abbey for burial, 1874. Publications: Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa (1857); Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries (1865).

Custodial history: The original letters were collected for safe-keeping and are lodged in the Livingstone Museum, Livingstone, Zambia.

Immediate source of acquisition:


Scope and content/abstract: Photocopies of 45 letters written by David Livingstone to various correspondents between 1841 and 1872. Correspondents include: Thomas L. Prentice, Rev. R. Moffatt, Professor A. Sedgwick, Richard Thornton, W.C.Oswell and {George?}Frere.

System of arrangement: See Holmes, T, David Livingstone. Letters and documents, 1841-1872, Zambian Collection at Livingstone Museum, Livingstone Museum, 1990.


Language: English

Conditions governing access: Bodleian ticket required.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids: See Holmes, T, David Livingstone. Letters and documents, 1841-1872, Zambian Collection at Livingstone Museum, Livingstone Museum, 1990.


Copies: Some copies are held in the National Library of Scotland.


Archivist's note: Compiled using Alistair G. Tough, African Medical History: A guide to personal papers in Rhodes House Library, Oxford, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: October 2003


Personal names
Livingstone | David | 1813-1873 | missionary and explorer

Corporate names