David Livingstone and the Myth of African Poverty and Disease

A Close Examination of his Writing on the Pre-colonial Era

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This study about David Livingstone is different from all other publications about him. Here, Livingstone is not the main topic of interest; the focus of the author is on nutrition and health in pre-colonial Africa and Livingstone is his key informant.
David Livingstone and the Myth of African Poverty and Disease is an unusual book. After a close examination of Livingstone’s writings and comparative reading of contemporary authors, Sjoerd Rijpma has been able to draw cautious conclusions about the relatively favourable conditions of health and nutrition in southern and central Africa during the pre-colonial period. His findings shed new light on the medical history of Sub-Saharan Africa. The surprise awaiting travellers in and also before 19th century Africa was that the inhabitants of the interior, even the ‘slaves’, were healthier and better fed than many of their contemporaries in Europe’s Industrial Revolution.

“An impressive piece of scholarship, truly forensic in its close reading and re-reading of Livingstone’s published works and those of other travellers during the same era, clearly a labour of love which has taken years to complete” (Joanna Lewis).
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Biographical Note

Sjoerd Rijpma (1931-2015) worked as a medical doctor in Africa and the Netherlands and held a PhD degree in agricultural sciences.

Review Quotes

[...] this volume would be of interest to the student of southern African history pre-1880, especially Africans themselves in order to appreciate their heritage (rather than just the often negative colonial version of it), and those interested in re-thinking how agricultural practices could be environmentally sensitive and appropriate to southern African soils'.

Margaret O’Callaghan, Australian National University, in Australasian Review of African Studies Vol.37 No.2 December 2016, pp. 149-151.

[...] In conclusion it may be said that Rijpma provided a modified depiction of the historical significance of Livingstone as explorer. In his data the author found confirmation for many things reported by others, but he was unable to accept Livingstone’s plea for the colonization of Africa. Because of this plea the explorer did not do justice to the authentic value of African culture and society'.

Jaap van Slageren, in Exchange Vol. 46 No.1 (2017) pp. 85-87.

Table of contents

Foreword
Preface
Preface to the 2015 Edition
Some Basic Data (Tables I and II)
David Livingstone Chronology
Acronyms and Abbreviations

PART I
AFRICA’S PAST: SURPRISING N EW ASPECTS
Introduction to Part 1

1. ‘Health and nutrition’ or ‘disease and hunger’?
- What is the actual meaning of ‘malnutrition’?
- Poverty in precolonial Africa
- Malaria, malaria and ‘fever’
- The correlation between health and nourishment
- What is meant by resistance?
- Assumptions

PART II
DAVID LIVINGSTONE IN TROPICAL AFRICA

2. 1849–56: Missionary Travels and Researches
Sojourn and travels in southern Africa (1841–49), the ‘missionary travels’ (1849–53), the trans-Africa journey (1853–56)
A paraphrase of a number of aspects of the book
- The first ten years in southern Africa
- The Kololo
- To Luanda (1853–54)
- Luanda (1854); back to Linyanti (1854–55)
- From Linyanti to Quelimane (1855–56); reflections on Livingstone’s Missionary Travels; Missionary Travels compared
Preparations for the Zambezi expedition

3. 1858–64: Narrative of an Expedition
Exploration of rivers and lakes; return to Linyanti with the Kololo. A paraphrase of various aspects of the second book
- Investigating the Zambezi
- Exploring the River Shire and Lake Malawi
- Intermezzo: a journey on foot from Mozambique to Linyanti and back
- The Universities’ Mission; the Ruvuma explorations
- The end of the expedition
Reflections on Narrative of an Expedition; Narrative of an Expedition compared; once again to Africa

4. David Livingstone: a usable source of ‘general’ information?

PART III
UNEXPECTED DISCOVERIES IN TROPICAL AFRICA
Introduction to Part 3

5. 1849–56: Missionary Travels and Researches
Sojourn and travels in southern Africa (1841–49), the ‘missionary travels’ (1849–53), the trans-Africa journey (1853–56). A paraphrase with the emphasis on health and nutrition
- The first ten years in southern Africa
- The Kololo
- To Luanda (1853–54)
- Luanda (1854); back to Linyanti (1854–55)
- From Linyanti to Quelimane (1855–56)
Reflections: health and nutrition in Missionary Travels

6. 1858–64: Narrative of an Expedition
Exploration of rivers and lakes; return to Linyanti with the Kololo. A paraphrase with the emphasis on health and nutrition
- Investigating the Zambezi
- Exploring the River Shire and Lake Malawi
- Intermezzo: a journey on foot from Mozambique to Linyanti and back
- The Universities’ Mission; the Ruvuma explorations
- The end of the expedition
Reflections: health and nutrition in Narrative of an Expedition

7. 1866–73: Waller’s 'The Last Journals of David Livingstone'; searching for the sources of the Nile
A paraphrase of Waller’s 'The Last Journals of David Livingstone'
- To Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Mweru and Lake Bangweulu (1866–68)
- From Lake Bangweulu to Lake Tanganyika and back (1868–73). Reflections on Waller’s The Last Journals of David Livingstone
Reflections: health and nutrition in The Last Journals

8. What David Livingstone really discovered in tropical Africa
- Children without ‘malnutrition’
- Health and limited sickness
- Full value nourishment and food supply, and green revolutions
- His opinion on health and nutrition

SOME CLOSING REMARKS

LITERATURE
Books consulted, not cited
INDEX
MAPS: from David Livingstone and the Victorian Encounter with Africa.



Readership

African historians, anthropologists, Africanists, political economists, health scientists and nutritionists.

Information

Collection Information