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Stanley and Livingstone: 1869-1872

The famous encounter between Livingstone and Stanley is not significant in the story of the European exploration of Africa (except in so far as it stirs Stanley's own ambitions in the field) but it is one of the most dramatic incidents of the period and is rightly famous - in the version of it published by Stanley in How I Found Livingstone (1872).

Finding Livingstone is a matter of public concern at the time because little has been heard of the famous explorer since the start of his latest expedition into the interior of Africa in 1866.

On this expedition (it transpires later) Livingstone reaches Lake Bangweulu, Lake Mweru and the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. But he also becomes a virtual prisoner in these regions, relying for subsistence on his avowed enemies, the local slave-traders, who have a vested interest in his not getting back to the coast with details of their atrocities. Hence the impression that he has vanished.

With growing international interest in the mystery of the famous explorer's whereabouts, the proprietor of the New York Herald decides to try and secure a scoop. In 1869 he summons a young journalist, Henry Morton Stanley, and gives him a succinct commission: 'Find Livingstone'.

By March 1871 Stanley is ready to embark on his journey inland from the east African coast. His target is Lake Tanganyika, and in particular the ivory and slave-trading town of Ujiji - to which supplies for Livingstone have in the past been directed. Stanley reaches Ujiji in November 1871 and his hunch is right. Finding there an ill and emaciated Livingstone, he greets him (in his own account) with the phrase which more than any other detail has made this encounter live in the public memory: 'Dr Livingstone, I presume'.

Livingstone recovers, with Stanley's fresh supplies, and together the two men explore round Lake Tanganyika for four months before Stanley's return to the coast - and to the fame which his book on these events soon brings him.