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David Livingston - Scottish Christian missionary and explorer

David Livingston

Blantyre is the birthplace of David Livingston, probably Scotland's best known explorer and Christian Missionary.

At the David Livingston memorial you can learn about Livingstone's life, from his childhood in the Blantyre Mills to his explorations in the heart of Africa, all dramatically illustrated in the historic tenement where he was born.

The facilities include an art gallery, social history exhibition, children's animated display, themed gift shop and tearoom, Jungle Garden, African playground and riverside walks.

Missionary, explorer, abolitionist

Born in Blantyre, Scotland in 1813, Livingstone spent his childhood working 14 hours a day in a cotton mill.

At age 25, Livingstone responded to an appeal for medical missionaries to China - before he finished his training, however, China closed its doors to outsiders.

Robert Moffat, a missionary in southern Africa, enchanted him with tales of his remote station. Livingstone went there and in the next 10 years, he opened a string of stations, teaching school and superintending the garden with his wife, Mary.

From the beginning, Livingstone was restless. After his only convert returned to polygamy, Livingstone felt more called than ever to explore. During his first term in South Africa, Livingstone made some of the most prodigious and most dangerous explorations of the nineteenth century.

Livingstone fought with missionaries, fellow explorers and assistants -he had little patience for missionaries who had absorbed the colonial mentality regarding the natives. When Livingstone spoke out against racial intolerance, white Afrikaners tried to drive him out, burning his station and stealing his animals.

He also had problems with the London Missionary Society, which questioned whether his explorations were distracting him from his missionary work. Livingstone, however, always thought of himself as primarily a missionary.

On an epic, three-year exploration, Livingstone was introduced to the 1,700-mile-long Zambezi River, home to Victoria Falls, Livingstone's most awe-inspiring discovery.

Despite its beauty, the Zambezi was a river of human misery. It linked the Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique, the main suppliers of slaves for Brazil, which in turn sold to Cuba and the United States. Though Livingstone sought to create a British colony, his primary ambition was to expose the slave trade and cut it off at the source. He hoped to replace slave economy with a capitalist economy: buying and selling goods instead of people.

Livingston navigated 1,000 miles up the Zambezi to establish a mission near Victoria Falls, pushing his men beyond human endurance. His wife, who had just given birth to her sixth child, died in 1862 beside the river, only one of several lives claimed on the voyage. Two years later, the British government recalled Livingstone and his mission party.

A year later, he was on his way back to Africa again, leading an expedition sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society and wealthy friends to find the source of the Nile. Livingstone revelled in the possibility of proving that the Bible was true by tracing the African roots of Judaism and Christianity.

He disappeared for two years, reporting later that he had been so ill he could not even lift a pen, but he was able to read the Bible through four times. When Henry Stanley found Livingstone, papers carried special editions devoted to the famous meeting.

In August 1872, a frail Livingstone shook Stanley's hand and set out on his final journey of exploration and activism against slavery.

Buried in Westminster Abbey, his tombstone summarises his life: "Brought by faithful hands over land and sea, David Livingstone: missionary, traveler, philanthropist. For 30 years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, and to abolish the slave trade."

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