Encounters

Who were the explorers who explored all parts of the world in the nineteenth century? The Victorian explorers who went to Africa helped to create new ways of seeing the world for the British public beyond Britain and Europe and played an important part in the history of empire making. These Victorian travellers included men such as David Livingstone and women such as Mary Kingsley.

Many African people also travelled in Africa, and many travelled with the European explorers. Their local knowledge was an important contribution to the Victorian's geographical understanding of the continent. Amongst the African travellers were Samuel Crowther, an Anglican missionary who was involved in expeditions to the River Niger; James Chuma, Abdullah Susi, Matthew Wellington and Jacob Wainwright who all travelled with David Livingstone.

Life and Explorations of Dr David LivingstoneDavid Livingstone was one of the most famous Victorian explorers in his own lifetime. His beginnings from working in a factory as a child to famous explorer made him a national hero. His book was a bestseller, even though he failed as a missionary, converting only one African to Christianity and on his last journey, he believed that he had found the source of the River Nile, when in fact he was on the upper Congo.

Some historians have argued that it was not so much what he did but what he came to represent that made him so important to people in Victorian Britain and to the story of the British Empire.

So what was his story, how did he become so famous and how is he viewed today?

Find out what David Livingstone's motives were. [Word] [Pdf]

Discover David Livingstone's story and his journeys to Africa. [Word] [Pdf]

Read about the Zambezi expedition and find out how stories get retold. [Word] [Pdf]

Who were the Africans who travelled with Livingstone and what do we know about them? [Word] [Pdf]

What was exploration in Victorian Britain? [Word] [Pdf]

This theme was written with support from Professor Felix Driver and Dr Carolyn Bressay.

An education pack exploring the stories of Africa's forgotten explorers and their contributions to mapping the continent has recently been developed. The pack called 'Stories from East Africa' contains activities for students from the ages of 8 to 12 and can be downloaded in sections here:

Stories from East Africa - Activity 1
Stories from East Africa - Activity 2
Stories from East Africa - Activity 3
Stories from East Africa - Activity 4
Stories from East Africa - Image Cards 1
Stories from East Africa - Image Cards 2