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Livingstone, admired and criticised

This year commemorates the bicentenary of the birth of Doctor David Livingstone whose archive is on show until 17 May, together with curios which accompanied him on his illustrious African expeditions.


With the arrival of this anniversary, people in London now have the opportunity to get to know the documented legacy of one of the most famous explorers of all time.

The show includes archives, photographs, maps and artefacts rarely seen by the public, reunited for the first time. On show, surgical instruments stand out which are thought to have belonged to Livingstone.

So this is how London will join a series of events also to be held in Zambia and Malawi, in memory of the renowned adventurer and champion of human rights opposed to slavery. Another side of his character was that he was a devoted Evangelical missionary, an activity which he pursued between 1840 and 1856.

This exhibition aims to explore this man’s life to understand his controversial character. Here we are reminded that in life, the Scot was widely criticised for his failure in converting new believers, as well as his geographical and strategic errors which brought his leadership skills during expeditions into question.

These mistakes did not prevent others from elevating him to the status of intrepid pioneer, and even an example of martyrdom who was sacrificed in order to spread the divine word.

But the appeal that he made before he died for an opening of Africa “for commerce, Christianity and civilisation” today holds him to blame for having paved the way for the struggles between colonial powers for control of the continent.

So, Livingstone also remains criticised for being linked to cultural imperialism. The explorer is even blamed for helping to build a vision of Africa as a weak continent, dependent on foreign aid and compassion.

Through the documentation available in the SOAS Library and Livingstone’s archives now on show, the exhibition also hopes to provide answers about his life relating to allegations which continue to be a subject of concern two centuries on.

Date:   until 17 May 2014. Time: 10:30 am – 5 pm

Place:  Foyle Special Collections Gallery, Thornhaugh St, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG.

More information:  Click here.

(Translated by Susan Seccombe –  ess.translations [at] gmail . com) Photos: Pixabay

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