This chapter focuses on David Livingstone, the most famous Victorian explorer of Africa, and quite possibly the least successful. Between 1870 and 1900, the British Empire annexed more than 5 million square miles of territory, a rate of expansion that was faster than in any other period. This imperial expansion was strongly supported by most Britons, but there were also those who were against the idea of Britain as such an aggressively imperialist nation. In this context, it was imperative to create narratives of empire that depicted the British as nobly sacrificing themselves as part of their broader effort to bring morality, justice and spiritual enlightenment to the ‘dark places’ of the world. This chapter examines Livingstone's exploration of Africa in search of the source of the Nile River and how he was recognised for his ‘great courage and self-sacrifice’ even though it was not clear what he precisely accomplished either as an explorer or as a missionary.
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