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Livingstone's Letter from Bambarre

A Multispectral Critical Edition

All letter images and text published by permission of Peter and Nejma Beard. Licensed for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. ©2010

*Beta Edition, 2010
*First Edition, 2011


David Livingstone to Horace Waller, 5 February 1871
Select a page: 1r   1v   2r   2v     Download:  PDF   XML

Page 1v

still unknown in fact it is Cooleography & not to
be made public – I propose to go up the lower Tanganyika
or Uerere or lower Tanganyika Albert Nyanza
and on to Ujiji & Zanzibar
   I do not know Bakers
and in my ignorance fear that conquering the
small headmen all along the Nile is doing on a large scale
what slavetraders now do on small one – commit
many murders to punish a few robbers and make
the whole population Turkish slaves
– I know of no
large chief in all this region   Every village is independent
and no glory can arise from enslaving these in detail

but I dont know
the Egyptian ex
peditions under
the French
as bloody as if
conducted by
Manyema –

My packet of 40
letters is I fear
destroyed   The
governor the alleged
culprit complains
that he conducted the
expedition of Burton
from Zanzibar
to Ujiji & thence
to Uvira and back to Zanzibar
endured a great
deal of wrangling
and was left un-
-paid till the Indian
Government or
that of Bombay sent
him a 1000 dollars
He was soured at
all Englishmen –
placed my goods
under his man
Musa bin Salim
who stopped the
porters ten days
while he plundered
& went off to Karagwe
to buy ivory for
his master – He
wished that no
evidence should
go to the coast –
my packet con-
tained evidence &
I conjectured it was
His agent at Ujiji sent back the
packet after [I] had paid for it because "he did
not know the contents"
I regret the loss of copies
of all my astronomic"l observations and [a]
Despatch supplementary to that from Bangw[eolo]

Page 1v, right margin

but I have copies at Ujiji The gross carelessness of
the council in allowing Arrowsmith to take away my
imperfect sketches made solely to oblige them by the earliest
information while my work went to the Cape and then my
good friend Arrowsmith glorifying himself by sending the
errors easily detected to Germany & India made me
resolve to take care of them myself and at the risk of losing
them altogether
– My kind love to your wife I am glad she has taken you
[previous line continues:] & under her wing
and my blessing on you both David Livingstone

Page 1v, page center, overtext

The Governor’s statement may be untrue for he is
an ill conditioned Arab and lying is no sin to such

A. then charged Mr Murray & me £300 with the reason
for the overcharge   had to alter all his work on
recieving later information which later
information was the only thing we employed
him upon – He employed himself on Kirk’s
and my imperfect sketches   He ought to
refund or leave the council

Critical Notes 
(keyed to passages in blue)

Page 1v

still unknown … Zanzibar   See note for "My work leads … [cont. to page 1v] … Zanzibar" above, page 1r.

Bakers plan   Waller had written to Livingstone that "Sir Samuel Baker is at the head of a host of Egyptians pushing on into the upper Nile districts. Ostensibly he goes to put down the slave trade there; has £10,000 a year for doing it &c!" (Waller 1869a). In early 1869, Isma’il (r.1863-79), Khedive of Egypt, appointed Baker as governor-general of the equatorial Nile basin for a four-year term. Isma’il instructed Baker to annex the equatorial Nile basin, establish Egyptian authority over the region south of Gondokoro, suppress the slave trade, introduce cotton cultivation, organize a network of trading stations throughout the annexed territories, and open the great lakes near the equator to navigation (Ofcansky 2008; cf. Gray 1961:88; Baker 1873-74; 1874). 

conquering the small … slaves   Two practices facilitated the advance of Turco-Egyptian slave traders into regions south of Khartoum. First, using armed Arab servants, the slave traders established permanent interior stations known as "zeribas." Second, the slave traders exploited rivalries among local African populations for the purposes of the cattle, slave, and ivory raids known as "razzias" (Wisnicki 2010:5; cf. Gray 1861:27-69).

no large chief … detail   Livingstone here (and elsewhere, e.g., [1871a] 1872:9) glosses over a complex set of political and social circumstances. The savanna lands of southern Maniema also constituted part of the northernmost province of the Bantu-speaking Luba empire (Wilson 1972:557, 581). This empire was not culturally homogenous, but instead consisted of a "complex ethnic mosaic, full of distinct groupings by lineage, clan, politics, and geography […]." Although it had a central ruler and could exert force, the empire depended foremost on trade and on a "flexible set of relationships that extended in a wide circle of influence rather than authority" (Roberts and Roberts 1996:20; cf. Reefe 1981:148-52), a situation that Livingstone’s observation fails to capture. However, because southern Maniema was a frontier region, one located at the edge of the rainforest, the inhabitants of the region also had political and social affinities with the Sudanic-speaking peoples of northern Maniema, who – as per Livingstone’s impressions – were "[d]istributed very sparsely over the land, much more mobile, and much less involved in trade than others," and so whose "societies were more fragmented into tiny autonomous groups than anywhere else" (Vansina 1990:186).

the Egyptian expeditions under the French   Livingstone here refers to the French ivory and slave traders, for instance Alphonse de Malzac and Jean-Alexandre Vayssière, who operated out of Egypt and the Sudan in the 1850s and early 1860s and who, through their use of Arab mercenaries, became known for "deeds of widespread cruelty and injustice" to the local populations of the Sudan (Gray 1961:21, 41, 47).

My packet … destroyed   In his journal, Livingstone (1866-72:13 May 1869; 1874,2:8) notes that "I have been busy writing letters home and finished forty two which in some measure will make up for my long silence." Elsewhere Livingstone ([1871b] 1872:10) describes the contents of this packet as "despatches, copies of all the astronomical observations from the coast onward" – namely from when Livingstone landed on the east African coast in late March 1866 – "and sketch maps on tracing paper, intended to convey a clear idea of all the discoveries up to the time of arrival at Ujiji" on 14 March 1869. Livingstone (1866-72:29 May 1869; 1874,2:11-12) attempted to entrust the packet to Thani bin Suellim, an agent at Ujiji of the Governor of Unyanyembe, and offered "two cloths and four bunches of beads" for the conveyance. Thani at first refused, saying "he was afraid of English letters – he did not know what was inside," but on further entreaty accepted the packet. It was then heard of no more. Livingstone (1870-71a:LXXXIV) discovered the disappearance of the letters only when the ten men from Kirk reached him: 

4th February, 1871 – Ten of my men from the coast have come near to Bambarre and will arrive today [–] I am extremely thankful to hear it for it assures me that my packet of letters was not destroyed – they know at home by this time what has detained me and the end to which I strain.

D[itt]o. Only one letter reached and 40 are missing.

Of the letters written between mid August 1868 and 29 May 1869 – the day that Livingstone handed over his packet – only three survive because Livingstone copied them into his journal: Lord Stanley (26 Mar. 1869), Abdallah (19 Apr. 1869), and Said Majid (20 Apr. 1869) (Livingstone 1866-72; Clendennen and Cunningham 1979:82-83). The letter that did reach the coast (Livingstone [1869a] n.d.) was not part of the packet but carried separately by another traveller, Musa Kamaals.

The governor… 1000 dollars   The Governor of Unyanyembe was Said bin Salim Buraschid (c.1815-c.1879), also known as Said bin Salim al Lamki. Born at Kilwa and previously the governor of Saadani, Said bin Salim first came to the notice of British explorers when Said Majid, the Sultan of Zanzibar, appointed him "ras kafilah, or caravan-guide" for the East African Expedition (EAE) of Burton and Speke of 1856-59 (Burton 1860,1:10). Although Uvira, which lies on the northwestern shore of Lake Tanganyika, was indeed the furthest interior point reached by the EAE, Burton (1860,2:126-27) suggests that Said bin Salim did not accompany the expedition on the last leg of its journey. Burton continuously complained of Said bin Salim’s conduct, and the latter was eventually dismissed because of his thievery (Burton 1860,2:237-38). For a set of complex reasons, when Burton and Speke sailed from African they failed to pay the wages of their African and Arab attendants, including those of Said bin Salim, who had been promised a thousand dollars and a gold watch. After an extended dispute, the Government in Bombay paid the outstanding debt (Brodie 1967:182-83, 186; Simpson 1976:23-24; for the relevant correspondence, see Burton 1860,2:430-41).

Burton   Richard Francis Burton (1821-90), explorer, author, and translator.

He was soured … destroyed   Elsewhere, Livingstone ( [1870c] 1872:4; see also 1866-72:18 Mar. 1866) describes this incident in greater detail: "When I sent a stock of goods to be place in depot at Ujiji to await my arrival [in March 1866], the Banyamwezi porters, as usual, brought them honestly to Unyanyembe; the Governor [Said bin Salim] then gave them in charge to his slave Saloom [Musa bin Salim], who stopped the caravan ten days in the way hither, while he plundered it and went off to buy ivory for his master in Karague." Livingstone did not discover the theft until his own arrival at Ujiji in March 1869; he conjectured Said bin Salim had ample grounds for destroying the letters because of the plundering and any censure or retribution that might ensue.

went off to Karagwe to buy ivory   Karagwe, a region in northwest Tanzania, just west of Lake Victoria, played an important role in East African trade in the mid to late nineteenth century. Although its resources were relatively scant, "it was strategically located not only for the exchange of commodities of long-distance trade with the coast, but also of those in the regional trading networks" that linked Unyanyembe with Rwanda and Buganda (Sheriff 1987:183-84).

His agent … "the contents"   See note for "My packet … destroyed" above. The agent was Thani bin Suellim.

I regret … [cont. to Page 1v – right margin] … at Ujiji   For the period in question, Livingstone recorded all his astronomical observations in a dedicated notebook, which has indeed survived (Livingstone 1866-68). The original despatch from Bangweolo was written to the Earl of Clarendon in July 1868 (Livingstone [1868c] 1869-70), while the supplementary despatch, which also survives because Livingstone copied it into his journal (1866-72, see above), was written to Lord Stanley on 26 March 1869.

Page 1v, right margin

The gross carelessness … altogether   John Arrowsmith (1790-1873), geographer and cartographer. Arrowsmith produced the maps for both Missionary Travels (1857) and the book Livingstone and his brother Charles co-authored, Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambesi (1865). Livingstone found Arrowsmith’s leisurely pace of working irritable. As a result of Arrowsmith’s delay in completing the map for the Zambesi Expedition narrative, the book was not published until Livingstone had left England for his final journey (Ransford 1978:232). This, and the subsequent reference to Arrowsmith, touch on the cause of this delay, namely that Arrowsmith initially based the Zambesi map on rough sketches Livingstone and John Kirk sent from Africa to the Royal Geographical Society council. Information Livingstone provided at the end of the expedition forced Arrowsmith to alter the map, so Arrowsmith charged Livingstone and his publisher, John Murray, £300 for the additional labor. During his final expedition, Livingstone remained embittered towards Arrowsmith and refused to share his notes with the RGS council: "I sent [Arrowsmith] the two volumes of observations from the Zambesi. [H]e could make nothing of them. So if [I] can help it neither observation nor sketch nor note shall go to the Geographical till after publication" (Livingstone [1868b] n.d.:1v).

Murray   John Murray (1808-92), publisher.

your wife   Alice Brown, daughter of Thomas Brown of Kent. Horace Waller married Alice on 13 April 1869 (Helly 2008).  

Page 1v, page center, overtext

The Governor’s statement … such   See note for "My packet ... destroyed," above.

A. then charged … council   "A." is John Arrowsmith. For the incident discussed here, see note for "The gross carelessness … altogether" above.


Note on the Text