The Daring Heart of David Livingstone: Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt That Saved Millions

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone: Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt That Saved Millions

by Jay Milbrandt

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The Daring Heart of David Livingstone: Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt That Saved Millions by Jay Milbrandt

The captivating, untold story of the great explorer, David Livingstone: his abiding faith and his heroic efforts to end the African slave trade

Saint? Missionary? Scientist? Explorer?

The titles given to David Livingstone since his death are varied enough to seem dubious—and with good reason. In view of the confessions in his own journals, saint is out of the question. Even missionary is tenuous, considering he made only one convert. And despite his fame as a scientist and explorer, Livingstone left his most indelible mark on Africa in an arena few have previously examined: slavery.

His impact on abolishing what he called “this awful slave-trade” has been shockingly overlooked as the centerpiece of his African mission.

Until now.

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone tells his story from the beginning of his time in Africa to the publicity stunt that saved millions after his death.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595555939
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 09/30/2014
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Jay Milbrandt is the author of The Daring Heart of David Livingstone and a professor at Bethel University in Minnesota.  He formerly directed the Global Justice Program and served as Senior Fellow in Global Justice with the Nootbaar Institute at Pepperdine University School of Law.  He has traveled throughout the world as a lawyer, managing global initiatives in Africa and Southeast Asia, and consulting with organizations engaged in human rights and legal development efforts.

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The Daring Heart of David Livingstone

Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt that Saved Millions

By Jay Milbrandt

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2014 Jay Milbrandt
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59555-593-9



It is something to be a follower, however feeble, in the wake of the great Teacher and only model missionary that ever appeared among men. —David Livingstone

In the dead cold of an English winter, enthusiastic energy electrified Cambridge University. David Livingstone, Britain's heroic African explorer, had promised to deliver a two-day keynote speech to one of the world's great institutions. Livingstone would headline the university's showcase lecture of 1857—it would be the benchmark event of the decade.

Dignitaries, faculty, and students crowded the Senate House on the wintery Cambridge evening, awaiting stories of African adventure, danger, and unseen wonders. The dark Norwegian oak walls of the auditorium pulsed with palpable energy. The white, ornately designed ceilings resounded the roar of the crowd onto the exquisite black-and-white checkered marble floor.

The man was a celebrity. Returning to England by boat less than one year earlier, Livingstone had stepped onto the British shore and into Victorian-era stardom. In the years leading up to his return, Livingstone's African adventures consumed news headlines and dinner conversations. The Royal Geographical Society hailed his work as "the greatest triumph in geographical research which has been effected in our times." On the streets, crowds mobbed him. In churches, the services turned to chaos as people clamored over pews simply to shake his hand. England adored its iconic explorer.

Livingstone had captured public imagination, immortalizing him. Adoring fans reveled in the gossip of his adventures. Rumors of his audacious exploits swirled through England's tea parlors. Had this man truly survived the jaws of a lion? Had he really walked away with his life from the hands of savage tribes? Had he actually survived unspeakable diseases not once, but dozens of times?

Tonight, they would hear the truth from the man.

Cambridge punctuated Livingstone's high-profile lecture tour across England and Scotland—a fitting grand finale. He had spoken at colleges and addressed cities. The Royal Geographical Society installed him as a fellow. The universities of Glasgow and Oxford conferred honorary doctorates upon him. Even Queen Victoria received him privately. Yet no event had matched the enthusiastic audience he found at Cambridge. His triumphant homecoming was a thundering crescendo.

Livingstone took the podium; myth became flesh. His short stature looked two feet taller as he stood before the crowd. He appeared confident, yet noticeably awkward on account of his crooked left arm. His thin, narrow face exhibited the weathering of many days in the blazing African sun. Though only forty-five, he might have passed for much younger. He gazed upon his audience with keen, piercing eyes sandwiched between his sweeping brown locks and bushy mustache.

He spoke slowly, unassisted by notes. An African inflection precipitated his stutter-prone Scottish accent.

"When I went to Africa seventeen years ago, I resolved to acquire an accurate knowledge of the native tongues ... and speak generally in African languages. The result is that I am now not very fluent in my own ..."

Laughter erupted from the audience.

"If you will excuse my imperfections," he continued, his lips cautiously forming long-neglected words, "I will endeavor to give you as clear an idea of Africa as I can."

Livingstone's Africa gripped the audience with awe and novelty. He painted the picture of an Africa that England had never known, an Africa dramatically different from his predecessors' explorations in its dry, empty, resource-scarce northern deserts. Livingstone's Africa was lush, water-filled, teeming with wildlife and fascinating people. Livingstone's Africa had intrigue and mystery.

"I went into that country for the purpose of teaching the doctrines of our holy religion," Livingstone told his audience, "and settled with the tribes on the border of the Kalahari desert."

Upon his first public religious service with these tribes, a chief had inquired about Christianity and the nature of God. Livingstone described to him a vision of heaven: the Lord sitting on a great white throne from whose face the heavens shall flee. The image startled the chief.

"How is it that your forefathers, knowing all these things, did not send word to my forefathers sooner?" the chief asked.

Livingstone explained the geographical challenges between Britain and Africa.

"Will you ever get beyond that with your Gospel?" the chief pointed out to the Kalahari Desert. "We, who are more accustomed to thirst than you are, cannot cross that desert; how can you?"

Later that year, Livingstone stepped out into the Kalahari, leading a team across it. Then he went farther, traversing Africa on foot—Atlantic coast to Indian Ocean—a feat never before accomplished. En route, he became the first person to reach Lake Ngami and majestic Victoria Falls—"scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight," he said.

Livingstone's rousing tales of adventure and discovery captured the hearts of dispirited Brits at a time when they needed an encouraging distraction. His return to England came on the heels of the bloody Crimean War, while unrest in British India raised the question of whether England had lost her grip on the global empire. The problem of urban poverty engrossed English cities; social tension, unemployment, and child labor ran rampant. Livingstone represented hope and unity.

Success had made Livingstone an icon of the working class. He was one of them. Pulling himself up from poverty and child labor by his own bootstraps, he worked and studied his way to university. He proved success lived in anyone willing to push through fear and suffering. The child had suffered long fourteen-hour days as a "piecer," tying together tiny bits of string at the cotton mill in Blantyre, Scotland. With practically no childhood, Livingstone had early adopted an unwavering endurance for hardship, along with an egalitarian love for the poor and underprivileged. Education offered a means of rising out of poverty. With his family's encouragement, he studied at night, learning Latin and securing a seat in college and eventually missionary medical school.

Livingstone's expeditions had set no speed records. His tortuous trek across Africa, often meandering at the behest of native guides, took three years. The delay served his reputation well—the longer his absence, the more fascinating and extraordinary his persona became. Livingstone's astonishing adventures even bolstered an image of immortality, surviving more than thirty bouts of fever as well as worms and countless undiagnosed conditions. To his riveted audiences, he could as easily have returned from the moon.

Perhaps Cambridge was a curious host. Critics might have shrugged Livingstone off as a reckless daredevil cashing in on short-lived stardom—the luck of a winning hand in a lethal survival lottery. But underneath his brazen adventures, Livingstone possessed a resume befitting a Cambridge lecturer. In addition to geographic discoveries, he had influenced science and medicine, documenting insects, weather patterns, and geological formations. Among his scientific firsts, he had recorded and described the deadly effects of the tsetse fly. In medicine, the reality of near-constant malaria forced him to experiment with cures, becoming one of the first to institute an effective prophylactic and therapeutic treatment for malaria: a daily dose of quinine.

As he spoke in the Senate House, all present could clearly see this man had sacrificed greatly. He had spent many years away from his family and the comforts of home; he had endured great hardships; and, at the hand of sickness, man, and beast, he had repeatedly stared death in the face.

"People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa," Livingstone stated.

The crowd quieted for Livingstone's moment of self-reflection.

"Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought!" he bellowed.

"It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice."

Sacrifice—needless, bloody sacrifice—he had witnessed, but not his own. Livingstone steered his podium from science to the matter tearing at his heart. Cambridge, with its regal stature and lofty culture, soon found itself confronted with an unanticipated reality of the African condition: the endurance of the slave trade.

All commerce in Central Africa, Livingstone told them, "is at present only in slaves, of which the poorer people have an unmitigated horror."

He knew, more than anyone in the room—perhaps more than any European in the world—the fear, destruction, and bloodshed of slavery. With the celebrated end of the transatlantic slave trade thirty years earlier, the eyes of the world had turned their attention away from Africa. Few Europeans had witnessed slavery there. Livingstone was one—maybe the only one.

Despite its dreadfulness, Livingstone approached slavery optimistically. The vibrant era of British abolition had run its course through his youth and colored his worldview. Led by parliamentarian William Wilberforce, along with Prime Minister William Pitt, and later parliamentarian Charles James Fox, the men had campaigned persistently against slavery for decades. Their tireless work had ended the trade throughout the British Empire in 1807 and abolished slavery in 1833. Livingstone had British abolition burning inside him.

"I am old enough to remember the dreary time when the brave indignant oratory of Fox, the majestic eloquence of Pitt, and the silver voice of Wilberforce, were heard in vain in St. Stephen's Chapel. When, year after year, the representatives of free England sanctioned and commended a vile unchristian trade in the flesh and blood of the men of Africa."

In South Africa, Livingstone had encountered the twilight of the West African transatlantic slave trade. He had watched as the west coast trade dwindled, largely on account of heavy British naval patrols. He felt confident abolition would win throughout Africa, but Britain had to join the fight.

Livingstone, however, was no Fox, Pitt, or Wilberforce. Politics did not interest him, and he did not possess a platform upon which to legislate. Livingstone was a mere layman—but a layman with a growing voice and reputation.

Compared to his predecessors, Livingstone's still-modest abolition efforts reflected a man forming his convictions. Prior to his years in South Africa, he had attended a public meeting of the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade and for the Civilization of Africa. At the meeting, parliamentarian Thomas Fowell Buxton, Wilberforce's successor in the abolition movement, proclaimed Christianity alone would not end slavery—Christianity needed commerce. Africans must trade their own goods, he argued, otherwise chiefs would continue to sell their people to pay for the European goods they coveted.

As a young, wide-eyed missionary stepping onto South African shores, Livingstone had adopted the Buxton philosophy: Christianity and commerce for civilization. Idealistically, he took his theory of engaging Africa to sell something—other than people—to the Makololo Kingdom, where he planned to set up a mission outpost.

He discovered, to his horror, a kingdom under siege. The slave trade had found the Makololo before he did. From the west, the Portuguese had arrived to facilitate slavery; from the east, slave traders from Zanzibar.

The slave trade suddenly became personal and urgent. Convicted to save the Makololo, Livingstone sought a readily accessible commercial trade route, either from Africa's west or east coasts. Only he could prevent this tragedy, making the treacherous walk across the continent and opening the route himself.

He first headed west, reasoning that if Portuguese slave traders could make the journey, then legitimate commercial traders could do so as well. The route grew more difficult than expected. On principle, Livingstone refused existing trails—trails the slavers had built.

"It is so undesirable to travel in a path once trodden by slave-traders," Livingstone told his spellbound audience, "I preferred to find out another line of march."

The long march west from his base in Linyanti to Loanda, the capital of Angola, took more than six months. Deathly ill, Livingstone rested for three months in Loanda before turning around to begin trekking east, backtracking over his westerly trail until reaching uncharted territory in Central Africa. For much of the expedition, he followed the Zambezi River—Africa's fourth largest river system. He tracked the Zambezi to its mouth on the Indian Ocean, only neglecting a short stretch of river. This three-year journey on foot completed his historic continental crossing.

Livingstone's search for an accessible trade route brought about an idea novel to African missionaries: the use of rivers. Rivers could be highways for Christianity, he reasoned, and they answered the geographic riddle of opening the African interior to commerce.

Commerce, however, had a vicious rival in the slave trade. Captured slaves served two purposes: they transported ivory to the coast and then they became goods for sale. Selling slaves at a journey's end proved far easier than returning them or reusing them. No significant trade went back into Africa. Exported ivory powered the slave trade; European demand for ivory-keyed pianos and ivory-decorated utensils showed no signs of slowing. To undercut slavery, Livingstone needed to undercut ivory. But, to undercut anything, he needed to establish his watery highway.

"It is therefore most desirable to ... open a way for the consumption of free production, and the introduction of Christianity and commerce."

Livingstone ended his Cambridge speech abruptly. The audience waited with bated breath for his next words. Suddenly, he looked up, speaking directly and decisively to the massive crowd.

"I beg to direct your attention to Africa," he bellowed. "I know that in a few years I shall be cut off in that country, which is now open; do not let it be shut again! I go back to Africa to try to make an open path for commerce and Christianity; do you carry out the work which I have begun. I leave it with you."

Silence. The awestruck audience had clung to every word, and as the man's appeal settled upon them, it left a penetrating reticence. Moments later, the crowd rose to their feet, exploding into roaring applause. Livingstone's call to action—leaving the opening of Africa to his audience—would not fall on deaf ears.

Departing the stage, Cambridge officials ushered Livingstone into a reception in the Combination Room at Trinity College—far enough away to escape the adoring mobs. There, dignitaries and luminaries awaited him.

Round after round of cheers rained on Livingstone at the gathering. Professor Sedgwick, Vice Master of Trinity College, delivered the farewell speech thanking Dr. Livingstone. Sedgwick declared the evening "the most enthusiastic reception which he had ever witnessed there during the last half century."

Cambridge culminated the Livingstone victory lap. As he retired for the evening, his life stood at a new crossroads. He could remain in England, basking in the glory of success and a life of quiet satisfaction with his wife and children, or he could return to Africa to continue his pursuits. Yet, along with the stories he carried back from Africa, he also carried heavy, soul-crushing burdens. Family tensions mounted. Professional relationships reached their breaking points. All of Britain awaited his next move.

And then the fame. Fame had its own challenges. While he embraced it, Livingstone did not seek prominence. In part, he resented it, perhaps because it came with a danger: his future work might not rise to the world's great expectations.



... some abuse me now, and say that I am no Christian. —David Livingstone

The greatest triumph in geographical research which has been effected in our times," Sir Roderick Murchison had declared of Livingstone's African crossing. The statement could come from no greater authority: Sir Roderick Murchison was the new president of the Royal Geographical Society.

His chiseled face between a broad forehead and a consummate high collar, Murchison presented himself as a stately man of high society. His work as a renowned Scottish geologist had led to his knighthood, and admirers honored him with Murchison-named geographic features the world over.

The Royal Geographical Society had fallen on hard financial times prior to Murchison's installation as president. With an onerous business model relying on membership fees and event proceeds, Murchison had to curry fresh interest in exploration and find marquee names to fill seats at RGS events. Livingstone could certainly draw a crowd.

Even before Livingstone returned to England's shores, Murchison had Livingstone in his sights. Murchison praised him, wrote about him, and awarded him the RGS Gold Medal. He had to make Livingstone synonymous with British exploration. He would make the man of science an icon.


Excerpted from The Daring Heart of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt. Copyright © 2014 Jay Milbrandt. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Authors Note, xi,
Chapter 1: Hero, 3,
Chapter 2: The Cost of Fame, 15,
Chapter 3: Great Expectations, 27,
Chapter 4: Turbulence, 41,
Chapter 5: Satan's Seat, 59,
Chapter 6: Interference, 77,
Chapter 7: Returning to Rags, 89,
Chapter 8: The Source, 107,
Chapter 9: Desperation, 123,
Chapter 10: Lost, 139,
Chapter 11: Broken, 159,
Chapter 12: Hope, 183,
Chapter 13: The Long Way Home, 199,
Chapter 14: Redemption, 219,
Chapter 15: Triumph, 229,
Epilogue, 237,
Afterword, 241,
Acknowledgments, 249,
Study Questions, 251,
Notes, 257,
Selected Bibliography, 267,
Index, 269,
About the Author, 275,

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The Daring Heart of David Livingstone: Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt That Saved Millions 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
ACS_Book_Blogger More than 1 year ago
I must quickly confess that prior to reading this book, I knew very little about the life of David Livingstone.  What I had heard through Sunday School was all that I knew – David Livingstone was a great missionary to Africa, preaching and sharing God’s Word and the plan of salvation.   I had no idea he was considered a great explorer and scientist.  I knew little to nothing of his desire and goal to abolish slave trading in and out of Africa and that the great expedition to discover the source of the mighty Nile River was a means to an end for Livingstone – the abolition of slavery.  I am embarrassed at my ignorance about this great man, but I can definitely say that it is not as great now as before. This book has been an eye-opener for me and a good teacher.  “The Daring Heart of David Livingstone” begins with Livingstone’s return to London at the end of 1856 and culminates with his death May 1, 1873, and the signing of a treaty for complete abolition of slave trading in Africa in August 1874.  The book takes us through an almost 20-year journey by Livingstone.  Along the way, we experience Livingstone’s success and failures.  We see him as man with faults, but never wavering from his desired goal – a goal he did not see achieved during his lifetime.    In the author’s note at the front of the book:  “Livingstone would never know the success of his grand publicity stunt.  A mere thirty-six days after passing away deep in the heart of Africa, legislation in Zanzibar would make slavery illegal in East Africa.  He passed away believing he failed in almost everything in life.  For abolition, he sacrificed his career, his reputation, his fortune, his wife, his children, and eventually, his own life.” “The Daring Heart of David Livingstone” is a good book and one I recommend.  I will be reading more about David Livingstone.  Thank you to the author Jay Milbrandt. DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy was provided by BookLook Blogging program on behalf of the publisher and author to facilitate this review. Opinions expressed are solely those of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.
authorandrew More than 1 year ago
The Daring Heart of David Livingstone, by Jay Milbrandt, is a solid short biography on David Livingstone. Subtitled “African slavery and the publicity stunt that saved millions,” the book centers around the African slave trade and Livingstone’s lifelong fight to abolish it completely. It’s a solid book that addresses Livingstone’s life well for the amount of space it has.  The book opens on Livingstone’s return to Britain from his first African journey, in which he had criscrossed Africa from south to west to east At this time, Livingstone became a public hero for his missionary and exploration work in Africa. Problems with his missionary agency forced him to look for funding from the Royal Geographic Society, who were more than happy to fund Britain’s latest hero. Buoyed by public excitement and government money, Livingstone returned a second time to Africa.  His later trips did not go so well as the first. Livingstone’s expeditions in eastern Africa are set back by supply shortages, desertions, and troubles among the men. Further, he is struck by the evils of slavery. East Africa at the time was home a flourishing slave trade, and Livingstone filled his journals and letters with stories of the terrible things done there. Armed with these journals, he tried to convince the British government to outlaw the slave trade, but the failure of his expeditions had caused public opinion to swing away from him again.  Livingstone received the break he needed when he was given the opportunity to settle a dispute between the explorers, Burton and Speke, who differed on the source of the Nile River. The British government offered the expedition, who jumped at the chance. Excitement over the dispute had captured the public’s attention, and when Livingstone accepted the offer he found himself back in the public eye.  He used this momentum to push publicly for the final abolishing of the slave trade in East Africa. Though he died in Africa without having found the Nile, and before the slave trade ended, Livingstone’s life goal would still be accomplished when the government formally banned the slave trade by sea along the entire East African coast and Zanzibar.  In my mind, the mark of an excellent short biography is one that piques my interest to read a longer biography, and Milbrandt has done just that in this book. Though I would have liked to read more about Livingstone’s family and the problems that caused for him later in his life, the book manages to adequately cover what’s important. The best touch was the quotes; because of these, the Livingstone of the book feels very human and approachable, as his actual words and feelings are spilled out on the pages for us to read. This is an excellent biography, focused on Livingstone’s mission to abolish slavery. It provides a balanced and quick look at the explorer’s life and some of the reasons he is worth remembering and honoring today. 
BeingImperfectMom More than 1 year ago
I was unaware of Dr. Livingstone when I first received this book. I was intrigued by the previous reviews and curious to find out the 'other side' of his story. I was quite surprised by my findings. A very quiet and always thinking type of man, the scientist was devout to God and his mission to carry out His plans for Livingstone. He kept God as his guide and pushed through all the hardships he and his caravan encountered - floods, disease, fever, deaths, slave raids, and more. Even after becoming broke from his dedication to fund his explorations through Africa, he was determined to find a permanent end to the terrible slave trade and its collateral damage. His commitment to the abolition of slavery in African cost him his family and, ultimately, his death. Sadly, his work and achievements go unnoticed by a majority of the people and history itself, yet it was his dedication to Africa that ended the slave trade.
RA_JAT More than 1 year ago
I read a book about Dr. Livingstone once. Bored me to tears. The Daring Heart of David Livingstone by Jay Milbrandt was anything but boring. David Livingstone was known as a missionary, explorer and anti-slavery advocate. As a missionary, he only had one convert during his lifetime. His entire life was a jumble of faith, missions, exploration, fame and failure. He spent more time in Africa than he ever did with his family. In fact he went years without seeing his children. Prior to this book, my recall of his life was limited to his failures and the fact that he got lost in Africa. The whole, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" was the only thing I could quote about his life. One thing that was largely lost on me was his passionate drive to end the slave trade in East Africa. This is where Jay Milbrandt does Dr. Livingstone justice. Milbrandt examines David Livingstone's life through the lens of his anti-slavery crusade. He looks at his failures and successes and how they impacted the ongoing slave trade. Quoting from Livingstone's journals and other papers, he shows his commitment to God, desire to serve Him and the many times he falls short. Yet through it all, you see Livingstone's continual focus on stopping injustice. My view of Livingstone has changed quite a bit after reading this book. Shortly after his passing, the slave trade was ended in East Africa and it had everything to do with Dr. Livingstone. After reading the facts laid out by Jay Milbrandt, I can say unequivocally that David Livingstone changed the world! A must read for history buffs, those who love missions and for anyone who desires to see an end to the modern day slave trade.