Livingstone Online

Livingstone Online

The Livingstone Online website ( is particularly interesting and helpful. It features the letters, manuscripts and books of missionary and traveller David Livingstone, and will be of interest to anyone interested in letters, manuscripts, digital projects, southern Africa, history, imperialism, colonialism, religion, literature… It looks really good, everything works as it should and is up-to-date, and it makes excellent use of digital photographs for illustrative purposes as well as for analytical ones of presenting Livingstone‘s letters, manuscripts and books. It has been well designed so navigating through its pages is a pleasure. It presents a good deal of material about the context of all the manuscripts as well as the images of the texts themselves, and it also provides line-number transcriptions of these. A good few of its pages are concerned with the meta-level aspects of the work and the processes involved in the research team and others preparing and presenting all this material, a process still unfolding regarding a number of the longer manuscripts. Interestingly, unless I have managed to miss it, there doesn’t seem to be a page which provides information about publications by research team members.

For letter aficionados, there is a handy chronological listing over a number of pages of all of the letters by David Livingstone that have been tracked, and from this list many can be read as both digital images and transcriptions. Be aware though that not all of the letters have been transcribed (yet?), and there are a number of letters (and manuscripts) for which only a one line description is given without meta-data. But nonetheless, what excellent riches there are on these pages.

Livingstone Online and the Olive Schreiner Letters Online and Whites Writing Whiteness project are all concerned with Southern Africa and the time-periods overlap, And while no one in the immediate Schreiner family missionary circles had met David Livingstone, certainly Gottlob and Rebecca Schreiner had known both Robert and Mary Moffat, and David Livingstone later married the Moffats’ eldest daughter Mary. So there is an indirect connection. Also Olive Schreiner was as impressed as many others were by Livingstone‘s Missionary Travels when she read it as a young woman and it led her to want to travel from the Eastern Cape into ‘the interior’ herself. The letters of Mary Moffat are part of the WWW project and at times they bristle with stiff disapproval of Livingstone regarding how he behaved as a husband and father and also regarding his ‘arrive, stay for a bit, then move on‘ approach to missionary endeavour. So there are minor convergences and interesting overlaps for the different projects. Therefore a brief comparison seems in order.

Livingstone Online was conceived around presenting Livingstone’s writings in digital form to support a research community, while the OSLO and WWW websites and their facilities have been by-products of research projects primarily concerned with producing publications and other research outputs. Livingstone Online is concerned with providing the total extant Livingstone corpus, while the Olive Schreiner Letters Online focuses on letters and just transcriptions (no digital images) of them, and Whites Writing Whiteness is focused specifically on letters of A wide range of white South Africans and provides transcriptions for a one in five sample and research notes for all others considered as part of the research. Livingstone Online is a resource that makes transcriptions and digital images of what is in the archives available to researchers, while Olive Schreiner Letters Online and Whites Writing Whiteness are fully searchable datasets concerned with proving transcribed content, and for other purposes encourage researchers to go to archival sources.

Succinctly, Livingstone Online is a ‘must visit’ website for anyone interested in letters and digital letter projects and particularly so for anyone who has found the Olive Schreiner Letters Online and/or Whites Writing Whiteness websites interesting. And we would be delighted to hear about other comparator websites, so please do contact us if you know of one.


Last updated:  28 June 2018