Livingstone's 1871 Field Diary

A Multispectral Critical Edition

Representing the Nyangwe Massacre
For the last 140 years, scholars and the public have relied on several accounts for the story of the Nyangwe massacre. These include one in an 1871 letter, that of the 1872 Journal, another in the 1874 published text – all of which appear in this edition – and several produced by Stanley based on Livingstone’s description (Stanley 1970; 1877-78; 1878). Conversely, the account in the 1871 Field Diary, which diverges significantly from these other narratives, has not been available until now.
Figure 1. Livingstone, 1871 Field Diary, 297b/149-146. The
right-hand page contains the opening account of the massacre.
The left-hand page continues a later part of the narrative.
The three accounts produced by Livingstone himself will be the subject of discussion here. Although Dorothy Helly (1987) has written brilliantly of the editorial changes as a whole that Horace Waller made to the 1872 Journal to produce the 1874 published text, her observations do not cover the case of the Nyangwe massacre. Only minor editorial changes, such as capitalization and punctuation, distinguish the 1872 and 1874 narratives of the massacre. The narrative shape of the 1871 letter, written a few months after the massacre, also bears a strong affinity to the 1872 and 1874 texts.
In the case of the 1871 letter and 1872 Journal, Livingstone writes with the full benefit of hindsight. The opportunity to reflect allows him to organize his narrative and to present the massacre as a fully coherent set of events. As a result, the 1871 letter and 1872 Journal narratives are reflective and written primarily in the past tense. Livingstone details the motives of the principal actors, with Tagamoio’s activities throughout the massacre receiving extended attention. He also elaborates, wherever necessary, to give a full picture of events and their underlying causes: "The wish to make an impression in the country as to the importance and the greatness of the new comers was the most potent motive" (1872a:695).
Most importantly, from the start Livingstone carefully represents his own reactions, and his efforts on behalf of the local population. For instance, he offers an account for his own lack of intervention: "My first impulse was to pistol the murderers but Dugumbe protested against my getting into a blood feud and I was thankful afterwards that I took his advice" (1872a:694). In addition, he notes how he directed his followers to rescue one group of Africans: "I sent men with our flag to save some for without a flag they might have been victims" (1872a:695). Livingstone’s Arab associate Dugumbe also appears in a favorable light. Dugumbe both shows remorse for the massacre (1872a:698) and attempts to rescue a number of Africans: "Dugumbe put people into one of the deserted vessels to save those in the water – and saved twenty-one" (1872a:693).
Figure 2. David Livingstone in 1857.
The 1871 Field Diary presents the massacre in a radically different manner. The massacre has only begun when Livingstone starts writing, and it continues to unfold as Livingstone composes. This singular circumstance has a wide range of implications. Livingstone takes his readers into the midst of the massacre with prose that is remarkably compressed, vivid, and immediate:
15th July 1871 The reports of guns on the other side of Lualaba tell of Dugumbe's men murdering Kimburu and another for slaves = Manilla is in it again = and it is said that Kimburu gave him 3 slaves to sack the ten villages we saw in flames – He is meeting his doom in spite of mixing blood and giving nine slaves for the operation = Moenemgunga was his victim = & so it goes on making me fear to go with Dugumbe's people to be partakers in their blood guiltiness (1871a:297b/146).
This is a private document, legible to the writer, but not necessarily to others. Livingstone shows much but tells little. He introduces individuals without gloss and tersely goes from cause to effect. Manilla, it appears, is not only leading the foray, but in doing so has broken his pact of friendship with Kimburu.
The 1872 Journal offers a strikingly different account of these opening moments:
15th July 1871 The reports of guns on the other side of the Lualaba all the morning tell of the people of Dugumbe murdering those of Kimburu and others who mixed blood with Manilla – Manilla is a slave and how dared he to mix blood with chiefs who could only have made friends with free men like them – Kimburu gave Manilla three slaves and he sacked ten villages in token of friendship – He proposed to give Dugumbe nine slaves in the same operation But Dugumbe's people destroy his villages and shoot and make his people captives to punish Manilla - make an impression in fact in the country that they alone are to be dealt with - Make friends with us and not with Manilla or any one else (1872a:691-92).
Livingstone is not just editing; he is reconfiguring his representation of reality, and has begun to write with an audience in mind. He elaborates and explains wherever necessary and ends by providing direct access to the minds and the motives of the principal perpetrators. We discover that Dugumbe’s people – but not Manilla – bear the responsibility for the attack.
Figure 3. Livingstone, 1871 Field Diary, 297b/148, detail,
spectral ratio. In the segment shown here Livingstone
makes the unprecedented shift from daily to hourly entries.
In fact, a comparative look at the descriptions of the massacre in the 1871 Field Diary and 1872 Journal reveals that Livingstone has carried out major revisions in producing the latter. For example, Livingstone has made the entries for 15 and 16 July in the 1872 Journal nearly twice as long as those of the 1871 Field Diary. In many instances he has significantly reconfigured the order of the extracts taken from the 1871 Field Diary. He has added a series of descriptive passages to the narrative of the 1872 Journal. In addition, ink analysis of the relevant 1871 Field Diary pages reveals a poignant detail of composition otherwise lost in Livingstone’s 1872 transcription: namely, that in recording the massacre, Livingstone switched to his remaining reserve of iron gall ink in an attempt to ensure the permanence of his words (see Composition).
More importantly, the narrative of the 1871 Field Diary unfolds with all the uncertainty of lived experience, especially under such circumstances as a massacre. Livingstone expends much energy in understanding the developing events, identifying the culprits, and figuring out their motives. The prose does not immediately clarify the relationship between the Nyangwe massacre and the village attacks on the west bank. Moreover, Livingstone fails to exculpate Dugumbe and discover the leading role of Tagamoio until well into the 16 July entry (1871a:297b/149). In fact, that 16 July moment represents the first time Livingstone even names Tagamoio. By contrast, in the1872 version Tagamoio receives extended attention from the middle of the 15 July entry onward.
Livingstone in 1871 (cont)