Livingstone's 'lives'

A metabiography of a Victorian icon

By Justin Livingstone

Livingstone's 'lives'


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0679-7
  • Pages: 320
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £19.99
  • Published Date: January 2017
  • BIC Category: United Kingdom, Great Britain, European history, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, Geographical Discovery & Exploration, Colonialism & imperialism, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, History, BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Adventurers & Explorers
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


David Livingstone, the 'missionary-explorer', has attracted more commentary than nearly any other Victorian hero. Beginning in the years following his death, he soon became the subject of a major biographical tradition. Yet out of this extensive discourse, no unified image of Livingstone emerges. Rather, he has been represented in diverse ways and in a variety of socio-political contexts.

Until now, no one has explored Livingstone's posthumous reputation in full. This book meets the challenge. In approaching Livingstone's complex legacy, it adopts a metabiographical perspective: in other words, this book is a biography of biographies. Rather than trying to uncover the true nature of the subject, metabiography is concerned with the malleability of biographical representation. It does not aim to uncover Livingstone's 'real' identity, but instead asks: what has he been made to mean?

Crossing disciplinary boundaries, Livingstone's 'lives' will interest scholars of imperial history, postcolonialism, life-writing, travel-writing and Victorian studies.


'[This book] stands out for the sensitivity of analysis, rich foundation of primary sources, deep engagement with academic scholarship in an impressive range of fields, and elegant prose... a major intervention'
Max Jones, The University of Manchester

'What this impressive study of Livingstone's legacy demonstrates is that our enduring interest in the man derives from the multiple ways his protean persona has been mobilized on behalf of widely divergent agendas since his death. Well-grounded in both empirical and theoretical frames of reference, this book offers a model of how to write a metabiography.'
Dane Kennedy, author of The Last Blank Spaces: Exploring Africa and Australia


1. Bio-diversity: metabiographical method
2. Styling the self: making missionary travels
3. Death: lamenting Livingstone
4. Empire: imperial afterlives
5. Nation: Scotland's son
6. Fiction: laughing at Livingstone?
7. Revisionism: sins, psyche, sex


Justin D. Livingstone is the Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow in Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow

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