The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, is to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Dr David Livingstone with an exhibition in the Foyle Special Collections Gallery (Brunei Gallery), 22 October 2013 – 22 March 2014.
The exhibition will bring together, for the first time, rarely seen letters, photographs, maps and artefacts, including a set of surgical instruments thought to have belonged to this iconic figure.
Lionised after his death, Mr Livingstone’s reputation has come to be viewed more critically in recent times. But he remains one of the best known British explorers and humanitarian campaigners of the nineteenth century, famed for his extensive travels through Africa, his campaign against the slave trade and the rich archival legacy he left behind.
Taking as its focus Mr Livingstone’s early years as a missionary (1840-1856), the exhibition looks at his career against the wider historical context. It also examines important personal relationships between David Livingstone and key African figures of the period, as well as the African response to nineteenth century evangelical mission.
In life, Livingstone was criticised for his failure to make converts, for being a poor expedition leader and making strategic and geographical errors. And yet he was also recognised as an intrepid pioneer, explorer and missionary, who ultimately gave his life to spread the Word of God.
Since his death, his famous call for Africa to be opened up to commerce, Christianity and civilisation has been levelled against him. He has been blamed for paving the way for the so-called ‘scramble for Africa’ and legacy of colonial rule that followed.
Can one man be responsible for so much? Ultimately, David Livingstone was a missionary and a devout evangelical Christian, who once said, ‘The end of the geographical feat is but the beginning of the missionary enterprise’.
SOAS will stage the exhibition as part of the ‘Livingstone 200’ events taking place in the UK, Zambia and Malawi.
David Livingstone c.1856