The Universities Mission to Central Africa: The First Humanitarian Intervention

Doctor David Livingstone

This Episode tells the story of the Universities Mission to Central Africa, an initiative primarily of Cambridge and Oxford Universities to enter the un-mapped regions of Central Africa to put into effect the great civilising mission of Doctor David Livingstone. It is a cautionary tale very relevant to modern politics and humanitarian adventure, and misadventure. The action takes place for the most part in the southern districts of what would today be Malawi, and in particular the Shire Highlands.

Doctor David Livingstone was one of the great African explorers, but he was also one of the first authentic human rights activists, and much of his career was spent in an effort to highlight the horrors of the East African Slave Trade. Part of his initiative was the concept of Christianity and Commerce, the idea that only the introduction of Anglo/Saxon Christian values and legitimate commerce would usurp and oust the illegitimate trade in slaves, at that point in history almost overwhelming the south central regions of Africa.

The UMCA sought to provide the Christian factor, but soon came to realize that humanitarian action does not always answer to the suffering of subject peoples.