Western Contact: Missionaries and Explorers in Africa By: Kaitlyn Naff, Jack Carelli, and kelsey Sidman

Even by the 18th and 19th centuries much of Africa remained unexplored to the Europeans. The Greeks and the Romans had explored and settled in Northern Africa in the past, while Portugal had been in parts of the Western coast. But eventually, curiosity and the spirit of the Christian missionaries drove the Dutch, Spanish, French, and English into Africa.

Beginning in the 19th century, missionaries from Europe began to arrive in Africa. Missionaries are people sent to foreign countries to spread their religion.

Missionaries began their work in central and southern Africa. Not only did they teach the African people about Catholicism and Protestantism, but the missionaries built schools, churches, and medical centers. Africans began to learn to read and write by studying the Bible. Many missionaries became advocates for anti-slavery as well. However, the missionaries viewed African culture and religion as lowly, and encouraged people to reject their traditions and embrace the Western ways. The missionaries were so successful because the African people saw the benefits of Western education, and parts of Africa had already been colonized.

There were many well-known missionaries traveling around Africa, such as Mary Slessor and Anthonio Barroso, but the most famous was David Livingston. He was a Scottish missionary, explorer, and physician. He is remembered for his extensive work with the London Missionary Society in Africa. He first arrived in South Africa in 1841 and wanted to improve the lives of the African people with European knowledge and trade. He aimed to spread Christianity, but eventually also became involved with the abolition of the slave trade and died fighting against it. Livingstone crossed the entire continent from west to east, and also crossed previously uncharted bodies of water such as the Zambezi River.

The Last Journals of David Livingstone, 1874. Vol. II: 109-57 Author: David Livingstone

Livingstone created a recipe that would supposedly treat the fever that came with malaria, which he had suffered himself. He used it to treat those who had contracted malaria, one of the most prevalent diaseases in Africa caused by mosquitoes. Included in his treatment were diuretics and purgatives, which helped one expel waste. Some of the side effects included mental confusion, nausea and vomiting. The sign that the cure was working was temporary deafness or ringing in the ears caused by an overdose of quinine in the recipe. Eventually his cure was put into tablet form and called 'Livingstone's Roussers' up until the 1920s.

Meanwhile, explorers from various countries in Europe had begun their expedition in various parts of Africa. France and England had already begun colonizing in Egypt, South Africa, and Algiers. One of the main goals of the explorers was to find the source of the Nile River. John Hanning Speke and James Augustus Grant, two explorers from United Kingdom, eventually did find the source, Lake Victoria.

France and England were especially interested in the exploration of the Niger Valley because of its many gold deposits and legend of the fabled city Timbuktu. It soon became a competition of exploration between the two countries. Other explorers were genuinely interested in gaining geographica knowledge of Africa and information from the locals, such as language, culture, and history. They were excited to reach new landmarks and see things no one had ever seen before.

Exploration was seen as a high valuable expenditure of resources, and thus many expeditions were funded by the wealthy and well-educated explorers themselves, or from benefactors who wanted people to explore on their behalf. Eventually, trade networks were established throughout Africa by the Europeans, treaties were signed between African rulers and explorers, and Europeans established colonies.

Both explorers and missionaries felt a sense of superiority over the African people and felt that they should civilize them. They viewed their cultural and religious life unfavorably and thus encouraged them to reject their identity. However, some did actually want to help the people and give them running water, electricity, etc.. Nationalism pushed explorers to travel throughout Africa and discover new and exciting things. Others were motivated economically and wanted to establish trade ports, colonies, and find new exports. Eventually, Africa was dominated by Europe politically, economically, and culturally.


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