In This Review

Dr. Livingston, I Presume? Missionaires, Journalists, Explorers, and Empire
Dr. Livingston, I Presume? Missionaires, Journalists, Explorers, and Empire
By Clare Pettitt
Harvard University Press, 2007, 264 pp

This entertaining and instructive book sets the Tanzanian encounter between the Scottish explorer David Livingstone and the American journalist Henry Morton Stanley in the broad context of British imperialism, Anglo-American rivalry and reconciliation, and the rise of a transatlantic cult of celebrity. The celebrated encounter took place in Ujiji, then a thriving, mostly Muslim settlement on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Livingstone, who had trained for a missionary career but focused increasingly on geographic exploration, had fallen ill in the course of a long search for the source of the Nile. Stanley, a correspondent for the brash New York Herald, tracked Livingstone down but failed to persuade him to return with him to Europe. Livingstone went on questing, and died soon after the meeting. The outlines of the story can be quickly told; Pettitt is, rightly, more interested in the media responses to the event than the event itself. Americans saw the meeting as both a triumph of American ingenuity (forestalling feeble British efforts to succor the famous missionary) and a sign of improving relations after the strains of the Civil War. British interpretations were darker. In any event, the story was a media sensation on both sides of the Atlantic and contributed to the rapprochement between the two great Anglophone powers.