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Livingstone, David

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 CWM/LMS Africa Miscellaneous Livingstone Boxes 1-11, Wooden Box
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Livingstone, David
Date(s): 1834-1950s
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 12 boxes including one outsize
Name of creator(s): Livingstone | David | 1813-1873 | missionary and explorer
Livingstone | Mary | 1821-1862 | née Moffat | missionary


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).

Mary Livingstone: born in Griquatown, South Africa, 1821; eldest child of the LMS missionary Robert Moffat and his wife Mary (née Smith); spent five years at Salem School in the eastern Cape Colony; teacher training at Cape Town; lived in Britain with her parents, but found life there uncongenial, 1839-1843; taught at the school at Kuruman in Griqualand, 1843-1845; married David Livingstone, 1844; worked with him in his missionary work; with their children, accompanied him on his two journeys to the north, 1850-1851; following her parents' insistence that she should not accompany him on his exploration of the Zambezi Valley, she spent four unhappy years in Britain; following her husband's return (1856) she spent two more years in Britain; insisted on joining him on the next Zambezi expedition and returned to Africa, 1861; died at Shupanga on the Zambezi River, 1862.


Scope and content/abstract:

Correspondence and papers, 1834-1950s, of and relating to David Livingstone, composed of three sub-collections.

Official London Missionary Society (LMS) papers of and relating to Livingstone, 1834-1872, largely comprise a series of over 100 original letters from Livingstone to his friends and to the LMS in connection with his work as an LMS missionary, mostly from southern Africa, the bulk dating from the 1840s and 1850s, and also include letters between other correspondents and miscellaneous other documents relating to Livingstone; 15 letters, 1852-1855, of Mary Livingstone (née Moffat), probably mostly directed to LMS officials, with typescript copies.

The LMS reference collection on Livingstone comprises typescript and manuscript copies of the LMS Livingstone letters; original letters relating to Livingstone, 1845, 1850; copies of other letters and documents by or relating to Livingstone, 1841-1881, held elsewhere, including a later copy of Livingstone's answers to LMS questions on becoming a missionary (1838); photocopy of Livingstone's Bechuana journal, 1853; two microfilms of materials on Robert and Mary Moffat and Livingstone; papers relating to Livingstone, 1850s-1950s, collected by the LMS, including copies of further LMS documents relating to him, typescripts, press cuttings and printed material on his life and fame and places associated with him.

The Bruce Livingstone collection comprises original letters, largely from Livingstone to Robert Moffat, 1844-1857, and photocopies of four letters, 1847-1853, from David Livingstone to Charles Livingstone.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Letters and papers of David and Mary Livingstone and some collected material relating to Livingstone (Wooden Box); copies of letters at SOAS and elsewhere (Boxes 1-3); the Bruce Livingstone collection (Box 4); copies of the Bruce Livingstone letters and some letters held elsewhere (Box 5); photocopy of Bechuana Journal (Box 6); LMS collected papers relating to Livingstone (Boxes 7-11). Letters are arranged chronologically within sections.

Conditions governing access:

Where they exist, copies, rather than original documents, should be consulted.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Unpublished handlists to item level. The Livingstone letters at SOAS are listed individually in G W Clendennen and I C Cunningham's David Livingstone: a Catalogue of Documents (National Library of Scotland, 1979).

Archival Information

Archival history:

Some papers formed part of the records of the London Missionary Society, created by Livingstone during his missionary work. Others were collected by the LMS to form a reference collection relating to his life. The Livingstone-Moffat letters were presented to the LMS by Diana Bruce. The photocopy of Livingstone's Bechuana journal was presented by Professor I Schapera.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited on permanent loan with the records of the London Missionary Society by the Congregational Council for World Mission (later Council for World Mission) in 1973.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds other records of the London Missionary Society (Ref: CWM/LMS), including a miniature portrait of Livingstone (Ref: CWM/LMS Miniature Portraits Box 1 Bundle 3 Miniature 11A) and photographs of Livingstone and various people and places associated with him (Ref: CWM/LMS General Portraits Box 3); three boxes of visual materials relating to Livingstone (Ref: CWM/LMS Africa Photographs Livingstone); and papers relating to his wife's parents, Robert and Mary Moffat. SOAS also holds forty 35mm colour slides, undated, which comprise an incomplete copy of a set of lantern slides made to illustrate an LMS talk on the life and work of David Livingstone, the originals held at the David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre, Scotland (Ref: MS 380689), and the accompanying undated text, 'The life and work of David Livingstone' (Ref: CWML J224 & Q361). The slides can also be viewed at

Letters and papers of David Livingstone are also held at Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (Ref: B/PLAYFAIR); the Wellcome Library; the British Library, Manuscript Collections; Royal Geographical Society, London; Oxford University, Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts; National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division; David Livingstone Centre, Blantyre, Scotland; Strathclyde University Archives; National Archives of Zimbabwe, Harare; Livingstone Museum, Livingstone, Zambia; and elsewhere. For further information see G W Clendennen and I C Cunningham, David Livingstone: a Catalogue of Documents (National Library of Scotland, 1979) and its Supplement (1985).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed Gerald H Anderson (1998); LMS Register of Missionaries, ed James Sibree; National Register of Archives; AIM25.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Mar 2002

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