Source and activity 5

Shinte sketch

Engraving of African tribal gathering
Shinte sketch.
[NLS reference: MS.42432]
View larger illustration

This is the annotated proof illustration titled 'Reception of the mission by Shinte'. It was included under the same title in David Livingstone's 'Missionary Travels and researches in South Africa', published by John Murray in 1857.

Anti-slavery campaigner

When he came to write his book 'Missionary Travels', David Livingstone wanted it to be more than just a book about his travels. He also wanted to use it to advance his campaign against the slave trade.

At that time in Britain, there were many misconceptions about Africans which today would be unacceptable and considered racist.

To counteract these misconceptions, Livingstone tried to make cross-cultural comparisons in his book to bring to light the fact that Africans were 'just such a strange mixture of good and evil, as men are everywhere else'.

Having seen this sketch of a tribal gathering in Livingstone's book, do you think it supports Livingstone’s argument?

Examining African society

See how the various warriors and other people are gathered in what looks like  a formal gathering,  what do you think is going on?  Does it seem important?

Now, examine the way the groups of people are organised, do you think there’s some kind of order here?

What about  the position of David Livingstone next to the tree on the left hand side, does he look interested in what’s happening around him or does he appear detached and remote?

Think about what this picture is saying to Victorian Britain and whether they would have seen this as a picture of a civilised society with many similarities to their own.


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

If there's a topic you'd like more information about or if you have any suggestions for learning, email us.

Speak me