Catalogue description Zambesi Expedition

Details of Subseries within RM 19
Reference: Subseries within RM 19
Title: Zambesi Expedition

Records relating to the Zambesi Expedition, headed by Sir David Livingstone.

Date: 1859-1883
Held by: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Library and Archives, not available at The National Archives
Former reference in its original department: AEX/2
Legal status: Not Public Record(s)
Physical description: 1 volume(s)
Administrative / biographical background:

The Zambesi Expedition was headed by Sir David Livingstone with Sir John Kirk as the Naturalist on the expedition and Thomas Baines as Store Keeper and Artist. The main purpose of this expedition was to extend the knowledge gained on previous expeditions into mineral and agricultural resources of Eastern and Central Africa. Its aim was also to improve knowledge on the local inhabitants and establish trade links with them, as per instructed by the British Government. The botanical collections gathered during the expedition and described by John Kirk, and being Government property were sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the British Museum. The expedition concentrated on the Zambesi itself as well as its mouths and tributaries, the Shire and into the interior. However, the expedition faced with seasonal shallows and impassable rapids. Furthermore, Kirk's boat capsized and he narrowly escaped death in the Kebrabassa rapids on the Shire River in 1860 when many of his journals and specimens were lost. Livingstone's wife died of malaria fever at Shupanga in 1862. The botanical and zoological specimens sent home by Kirk were among the positive results of the expedition, laying some of the foundations for The Flora and Fauna of Tropical Africa which was published in installments from 1868 to 1917. Although the expedition failed to follow the Zambesi to its source it did lead to the European discovery of Lake Nyassa (Lake Malawi). Also of major significance were the mapping and surveying of an interior previously unknown to most Europeans with the exception of a handful of Portuguese officials and traders.

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