Jay Milbrandt. The Daring Heart of David Livingstone: Exile, African Slavery, and the Publicity Stunt that Saved Millions. Nashville: Nelson Books (An Imprint of Thomas Nelson), 2014.
David Livingstone was a nineteenth century English explorer and missionary. The Daring Heart of David Livingstone
is about his stand against slavery and the slave trade, as well as his
desire to find the source of the Nile. (And, according to Milbrandt,
the question of what the Nile’s source is remains unresolved.)
The book was excellent whenever it discussed Livingstone’s personal
background, his personality, his family, his faith, and his attempts to
navigate his opposition to slavery within sensitive political waters.
Livingstone sought economic alternatives to slavery, such as
establishing a colony in Africa from which England would receive cotton,
allowing England to get cotton from another source besides the slave
labor of the American South. Livingstone also tried to dissuade
Africans from participating in the slave trade, while learning of their
reasons for doing so, and he contended against “slavers” who captured
people as slaves.
The book is quite detailed about Livingstone’s nautical adventures,
some of which I found interesting, and some of which I did not.
Moreover, Milbrandt seemed to presume some background knowledge of
Livingstone on the part of the reader. In my opinion, Milbrandt would
have done well to state briefly in the preface what exactly Livingstone
did in opposing slavery, so that readers would not get lost in the
details later in the book. Milbrandt also should have included brief
biographical information about Livingstone at the beginning of the book,
to inform readers uninformed about who Livingstone
was, and to allow readers to get to know Livingstone better.
Milbrandt includes discussion questions in the back of the book.
Some of them relate to the application of Christianity. Some of them
may require more historical knowledge in order for some readers to
answer them (i.e., a question about whether an alternative approach to
banning maritime slave shipping should have been taken in trying to end
the slave trade, since the ban “arguably made the slave trade more
dangerous and violent along the Kisiju Road…”). My favorite question
was, “Was Livingstone a bad leader, or a good leader with bad people
People with an interest in and knowledge about Livingstone may find
this book helpful. Those without as much background knowledge about him
can still be edified by the book, since it is about a man who thought
he had failed yet actually did not. But the latter category of readers
may finish the book feeling unsatisfied, in areas.
Note: I received a complimentary review copy of this book through the BookLook Bloggers (http://booklookbloggers.com/)
book review bloggers program. The program does not require for my
review to be positive, and my review reflects my honest reaction to the