Source and activity 4

Gravestone at Westminster Abbey

David Livingstone's gravestone
Postcard of Livingstone's grave.
[NLS reference: MS.42442]
View larger gravestone image

Memorials and gravestones serve to give people a permanent reminder of a person in their best light.

They can be simple or elaborate and often the person has no control over what is written or created to commemorate them after they die. 

Remembering a national hero

Sometimes, the way people die becomes better known than what they achieved in life.

Look at this image of David Livingstone's gravestone. Almost every space is taken up with inscriptions. The fact that he’s buried in Westminster Abbey tells us he’s someone who is revered and important even over 100 years later.

Putting a hero into words

What are some of the descriptions used in this gravestone to give us that impression?

How important do you think the language used for the final resting place of a national hero is?

Is the language used here serious or emotional? How are we supposed to feel after reading this? Proud, intimidated, inspired?

If you didn't know anything about David Livingstone and only read his gravestone, what impression would you get of him?


Themes in focus: David Livingstone


Find out more about David Livingstone in NLS collections

David Livingstone is one of a number of authors featured in the John Murray Archive.


The David Livingstone collections are listed under ‘L’ in our Guide to Manuscripts Collections


Search the John Murray Archive catalogue for material relating to David Livingstone.

David Livingstone on the web

Visit Livingstone Online for detailed information about the explorer and to view his letters online.


The Royal Geographical Society website has factsheets, quiz and image gallery on David Livingstone and his travels.

NLS learning for you

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