This is a review on a new biography of David Livingstone written by Vance Christie and published by Christian Focus. If you want to read a thorough, comprehensive biography of David Livingstone that is fair and looks carefully and cites both primary and secondary sources (50 different sources), look no further.
Who Was David Livingstone?
David Livingstone was a Scottish physician who was born on March 19, 1813 to a godly family. When he became a Christian at the age of 19, he thought that "the salvation of men ought to be the chief desire and aim of every Christian." (26) He would soon save money to pay for his theological and medical training with the intention of becoming a missionary. He received his medical license to practice medicine and was ordained as a missionary in 1840. For the next 34 years, David Livingstone devoted his life to the exploration of Africa and to the ministry of the African people. Livingstone made his final journal entry on April 27, 1873, and he died shortly thereafter in Africa.
Commentary of This David Livingstone Biography
Let me preface by saying that besides a short, simple biography by Janet and Geoff Benge, I have not read any other dedicate biography of David Livingstone prior to this biography by Vance Christie. When I first picked up this 750 page hardback with its rather small print, I was not sure if I would be interested in reading through this entire volume.
I was pleasantly surprised by how readable Christie's writing was. Although there are a lot of quotations from various sources, the biography was difficult to put down, and I was able to read about 70 pages an hour. Although there are copious footnotes, they were welcomed and helpful to add context without interrupting the flow of the main text.
This thorough retelling of Livingstone's life felt very well balanced. I plead ignorance on the extensive criticism that has been directed to Livingstone's life. Overall, I was encouraged and emboldened by the sacrifices Livingstone made. One can quibble on some of his life choices (and its negative effects on his family) and his lack of partnership with others as he labored as a lone ranger for much of his life.
I believe Christie succeeds admirably in presenting the facts about Livingstone and letting the reader choose how to think and feel as he evaluated this somewhat flawed individual. I believe all Christian readers will be blessed to see how God used Livingstone in so many ways. I most appreciated the accounts of how so many different people in Africa were impacted by Livingstone's life as missionary, explorer, and abolitionist.
I am confident that Christie's substantial work is the definitive biography on David Livingstone. It's research, objectivity, and readability make Vance Christie's book a worthy investment of any Christian's time. No Christian today should be unaware of how God used Livingstone to alter the Arab slave trade, to foster greater interest in Africa through his initial encounters with its diverse landscape and people, and to propel subsequent Christian evangelistic efforts in Africa.
David Livingstone: Missionary, Explorer, Abolitionist
Written by Vance Christie | Christian Focus (2023)