Two hundred years ago this week when Scottish missionary, African explorer and Victorian hero David Livingstone was born public transport was still in its infancy. The London Underground system – the world’s first – was still 50 years into the future; the steam engine had been invented only a few years before. Transportation fell to two forms: foot, or the horse-powered coaches of Dickens’ novels.
Horses not surviving the heat and disease of equatorial Africa, it was down to travel by foot for Livingstone’s explorations of the continent. He travelled lightly (which in those early days meant a handful of porters and a couple of guns), which today remains a way of demonstrating a wish to interact peacefully with local populations. There is little to fear from a single traveller with a small bag of kit.
Ill health and theft of his meagre belongings left him dependent on the Arab slave traders that he so despised, believing that Christianity and proper trade would develop Africa’s equatorial region that he investigated so readily over 20 years.
The rough route of Livingstone’s African journeys, overlaid onto a map of modern borders which Livingstone’s explorations helped to develop.
Livingstone was one of the first Europeans to perform a transcontinental journey, leaving Luanda on the Atlantic coast of Angola for Quelimane, a town near the source of the River Zambezi on Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline. He travelled throughout southern and east Africa, particularly around the Great Lakes region.
He died in Zambia, where his heart was buried beneath a Mvula tree. A crucifix carved from this tree can be found in the Anglican cathedral of Zanzibar’s Stone Town, sited over old slave cells, and the place where Livingstone reached Africa.
Colonial buildings (old high court) Zanzibar, where Livingstone began his explorations.