Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    WWW: Missionary Travels by David Livingstone

    January 15, 2014 by Brandy Vencel


    This is the sort of book that only Ambleside Online could get me to read. I’ve never been a huge autobiography reader, so reading a really old one would never have crossed my mind. But reading it I am, because I must if I want to be able to converse intelligently with my oldest, who is reading it for AO Year 6.

    We’ve done a lot of geography with this book, of course, but the cultural insights are what has really struck me. Every once in a while, Livingstone will open his mind to us a bit. He’ll relate not just the surface facts, but his analysis of them. And in those moments, we get a glimpse of idolatry and slavery that aren’t always what we’d expect. I mean, yes, of course, they are evil. But beyond this, he traces the implications, and I’ve found it fascinating.

    Here is what I’ve copied into my Commonplace Book this week:

    It is seldom of much use to show one who worships idols the folly of idolatry, without giving something else as an object of adoration instead. They do not love them. They fear them, and betake themselves to their idols only when in perplexity and danger.

    It was curious to notice the effect of the slave-trade in blunting the moral susceptibility…

    Missionary Travels
    by David Livingstone

    {affiliate link}

    If I could have taken her into my family for the purpose of instruction, and then returned her as a free woman, according to a promise I should have made to the parents, I might have done so; but to take her away, and probably never be able to secure her return, would have produced no good effect on the minds of the Balonda; they would not then have seen evidence of our hatred to slavery…

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit

    8 Comments

  • Reply Debra May 22, 2018 at 6:20 am

    Do they still recommend this for year 6? I don’t see that one?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 22, 2018 at 7:30 am

      I’m pretty sure they changed it to just a biography of David Livingstone, which sort of makes me sad … reading his own words felt sort of magical! But it *was* more difficult to keep within the bounds of the schedule.

  • Reply amy in peru January 16, 2014 at 3:53 am

    i had to sneak over here ’cause your missionary thoughts. 🙂
    that first quote is second-nature to us now, after having lived here. the whole fear-factor…
    then, i guess i must admit that although i made this book a practice of perseverance for my boys, and i MUST have read portions aloud to them to keep them going, i don’t remember very much of it at all!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 16, 2014 at 4:07 am

      It *is* a hard book to read, that is for sure. I don’t think Daughter A will be able to do it. We’ll probably just read a biography instead of the original. But then again, we shall see. Sometimes she rises to the occasion.

      I wondered how much idolatry you see there.

  • Reply Carol January 16, 2014 at 1:36 am

    The first quote also speaks to our modern/Western forms of idolatry and what we substitute for adoration.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 16, 2014 at 1:57 am

      So true!

      Something about it reminded me of that passage where a demon is cast out and it wanders around for awhile and then decides to come back and it finds the place cleaned up and ready for company, so it comes back, and with seven of its friends. Just getting rid of the idolatry leaves a void, it seems.

  • Reply Cindy Rollins January 15, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Funny, this was one of the first AO books I assigned to the boys years ago in the PUO days but I do not recall reading it.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 16, 2014 at 1:56 am

      There is a lot of geography/travel journal type information to get through to find these gems, but so far I think it’s been totally worth it. Especially compared to other geography options! 🙂

    Leave a Reply