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Scottish explorer David Livingstone, born in 1813, explored southern Africa on three different expeditions from 1841–1873. He journeyed
there to bring Christianity, commerce, and civilization to the heart of the continent.
Christianity, commerce, and civilization
In 1841, Africa was a mystery to many
Europeans. They thought of it as dry and infertile
with little commercial value. However, Livingstone
amazed them during his travels by sending back
reports of a continent filled with lush forests,
huge waterfalls, and massive grasslands. Initially,
Livingstone’s goal was to convert Africans to
Christianity. However, that soon gave way to exploration and the attempt to discover trade routes that
could undercut and possibly end the slave trade.
Livingstone also covered a great deal of territory.
In 1855, he explored the turbulent and wild waters
of the Zambezi River, which funnels into a great
waterfall. He named it the Victoria Falls in honor
of his monarch, Queen Victoria. In addition, his
journeys across sub-Saharan Africa were the first by
a European and rank as one of the greatest land
explorations in history.
During his travels, Livingstone survived a variety
of hardships that killed many of his companions.
Aside from the extreme heat, driving rain, and
knee-deep mud, Livingstone suffered under the
constant threat that the men traveling with him
might mutiny and kill him. In addition, Livingstone
battled repeated attacks of malaria. He also suffered
from terrible headaches, dizziness, vomiting, and
diarrhea. In one three-year stretch, he endured 27
attacks of fever. Livingstone was even mauled by a
lion, an attack that permanently damaged his left hand.
Livingstone died in 1873 at the end of his third
expedition. By that time, he had influenced attitudes
toward Africa all over the Western world. Despite
traditional thinking of the time that European culture was superior, Livingstone truly believed in
Africa’s ability to advance to the modern world.