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Book: The Daring Heart of David Livingstone

Today’s book is from BookLook Bloggers, part of the Thomas Nelson/Zondervan/HarperCollins corporation. I pick books, they send them, I review them.

<-It’s a book cover, almost fit for framing!

If you are like me, the first thing that comes to mind when the name “David Livingstone” is mentioned is “I presume?” coming from Stanley’s lips. Then I think that the two of them roamed Africa in pith helmets and went on about life.

If Jay Milbrandt is right, then I have a weak picture of Livingstone. Weak, or perhaps incomplete, because I have missed Livingstone’s involvement in the most important moral reform of the nineteenth century: the major abolition of slavery. In his day, the East African slave trade was still strong.

The odd solution, given the situation of the time, was for Livingstone to extend the influence and control of the British Empire. The Empire had banned slavery under the efforts of Wilberforce decades before, though it was hard to enforce at the distances to Zanzibar. Livingstone tried to combat it, but often found himself reliant on slave traders for his life.

Milbrandt’s work takes the reader into the heart of Livingstone’s personal conflict in the midst the geopolitical one. His portrait of a crusader for justice who cannot quite work with others, but cannot survive without them pulls Livingstone out of the painting and into reality. We see that he is no boneless explorer, but one who had both hard edges and soft ones.

I like the style of this biography. Livingstone is not portrayed as perfect, but Milbrandt does not obsess with showing us his “faults” either. This is a portrait of Livingstone that one can learn from but one is not tempted to bow down to.

Alongside the man, we also get a good look at the time, seeing that East Africa and British Empire were neither perfect nor perfectly horrid, but filled with people and the mixed bag that this brings. A greatly heroic deed is followed by a horrific attitude. This is the world, not much different from the one we live in.

This is a good read, and a useful one for Christians struggling with our legacy in the world. I’d suggest this one for high school and up, well worth the time and shelf space.

Free book in exchange for the review.

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