ABOUT THIS BOOK
When the American reporter Henry Morton Stanley stepped out of the jungle in 1871 and doffed his pith helmet to the Scottish missionary-explorer Dr. David Livingstone, his greeting was to take on mythological proportions. But do any of us really know what his words meant at the time--and what they have come to mean since?
Far from meeting in a remote thicket in "Darkest Africa," Stanley met Livingstone in the middle of a thriving Muslim community. The news of their encounter was transmitted around the globe, and Livingstone instantly became one of the world's first international celebrities.
This book shows how urgently a handshake between a Briton and an American was needed to heal the rift between the two countries after the American Civil War. It uncovers for the first time the journeys that Livingstone's African servants made around Britain after his death, and it makes a case for Stanley's immense influence on the idea of the modern at the dawn of the twentieth century. Drawing on films, children's books, games, songs, cartoons, and TV shows, this book reveals the many ways our culture has remembered Stanley's phrase, while tracking the birth of an Anglo-American Christian imperialism that still sets the world agenda today.
Dr. Livingstone, I Presume? is a story of conflict and paradox that also takes us into the extraordinary history of British engagement with Africa. Clare Pettitt shows both the bleakest side of imperialism and the strange afterlife of a historical event in popular mythmaking and music hall jokes.
Clare Pettitt's vivid account of the search for the British missionary, Dr. David Livingstone and the encounter deep in the heart of Africa with the journalist Henry Stanley is a splendid piece of historical reconstruction. It is also an insightful analysis of the interaction between Christian evangelization in Africa and the emergence in the West itself of a new narrative of modernity.
-- Francis Abiola Irele, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
This is, quite simply, remarkable. The world of missionaries and explorers, which once held center stage in the imagining of empire and the making of the modern world, comes alive powerfully in its pages. Pettitt elegantly and deftly nudges us towards a necessary engagement with the "global unconscious," wherein old and new racisms and fundamentalisms are co-implicated as much with high-minded liberalism as with conservatism and militarism. This is a work of compelling cultural and historical explanation.
-- Biodun Jeyifo, Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University
[Pettitt's] critical look at the personal lives of both men is the best précis available this side of Tim Jeal's 1973 biography of Livingstone--and she writes with a scalpel.
-- John Leonard Harper's
Around the narrative of this modest but drama-filled event--a milestone in the development of the modern idea of celebrity--Pettitt weaves a story of imperialist attitudes toward the Dark Continent, Western ignorance of and ambivalence toward blacks, and the importance of newspapers in an age of enhanced communication. Her prose is vigorous, and her historical judgment is always on the mark: she also isn't afraid to say what the historical record can't tell us--vide the absence of evidence on the reaction of Livingstone's African servants to their stay in England.
-- David Keymer Library Journal
Ms. Pettitt has a great time recounting every tangential mention of the meeting in song and story while eventually fleshing out minibiographies of both participants.
-- John M. Talor and Priscilla S. Taylor Washington Times
This is a short beautifully researched book that looks at how, through the agency of popular culture, the Stanley/Livingstone myth shaped the West's ideas about Africa and about the other, and even contributed to misunderstandings between Christianity and Islam.
-- George Fetherling Seven Oaks
This entertaining and instructive book sets the Tanzanian encounter between the Scottish explorer David Livingstone and the American journalist Henry Morton Stanley in the broad context of British imperialism, Anglo-American rivalry and reconciliation, and the rise of a transatlantic cult of celebrity.
-- Foreign Affairs
Since 1871, countless books, songs, movies, and mementoes have commemorated this iconic cultural event, which retains relevance to some of the largest, most complex issues today: the growth of celebrity culture, technology and the transformation of social relations, and the tricky relationship between the U.S. and Britain. Pettitt lucidly considers the ironies, misperceptions, and complexities of the Stanley-Livingstone encounter.
-- G. M. Stearns Choice