The Lost Diary of Dr. Livingstone - Dr. Livingstone, I Presume? Explore Livingstone Unpublished Diary Text

In 1871, Dr. David Livingstone witnessed the slaughter of approximately 400 Africans by slave traders from Zanzibar. Although Livingstone was a staunch abolitionist, he journeyed through Africa along well-established slave trading routes alongside men whose practices he abhorred.

Livingstone’s unpublished field diaries reveal true desperation and horror during his expedition. Hover and click on the diary below for more.


What Historians Know
Shereff was a slave trader from Zanzibar who accompanied Livingstone on his journey leading to the village of Ujiji. Livingstone wanted his observations of the slave trade to make it to Englad to support the abolitionist movement, often sending letters from the interior with caravans who were engaged in slave trading, and not sympathetic to Livingstone's cause. Livingstone eventually learned Shereff was stealing from his supply reserve as well.

"The Governor" refers to the leader of the Ujiji village; 19th century European explorers often imposed their political understandings on structures they observed in Africa.
What Livingstone wrote:
"Shereff destroys my letters = the Governor does the same to prevent evidence of his plunder going to the coast Lord help me"

What Historians Know
In the 1860s, Livinstone's expedition proved more of a struggle, despite his belief he was doing God's work, due to his failing health and the loss of supplies at the hands of slave traders he traveled with. Livingstone also discovered the leader of Ujiji had stolen the reserve supplies he had left for himself. This disturbing discovery occurred just days before his meeting with journalist and explorer Henry M. Stanley, which undoubtedly lifted the explorer's spirits.
What Livingstone wrote:
"I am distressed [&] perplexed what to do so as not to be foiled but all seems against me"

What Historians Know
The infamous massacre described by Livingstone occurred in the village of Nyangwe, a trading depot for slave traders from Zanzibar. The slave trade was fueled by regular attacks by these traders on various villages, whose residents would then become slaves. Dugumbe was a slave trader who instigated the murders. Kimburu was a local African chief.
What Livingstone wrote:
"Dugumbe's men murdering Kimburu and another for slaves"

What Historians Know
The field notes paint of a dramatic picture of Livingstone writing during the very moment of the massacre; he clearly felt an urgent need to document and share these horrors to help bring the brutal realities of the slave trade to Europe.
What Livingstone wrote:
"It is awful - terrible a dreadful world this = as I write shot after shot falls on the fugitives on the other side who are wailing loudly over those they know are already slain = Oh let thy kingdom come ="

Transcription, images and research provided by The David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project, published by Livingstone Online and the UCLA Digital Library Program, and to Dr. Adrian Wisnicki. The David Livingstone Spectral Imaging Project is a collaborative, international effort to use spectral imaging technology and digital publishing to make available a series of faded, illegible texts produced by the famous Victorian explorer when stranded without ink or writing paper in Central Africa.