Kirk's Pictures of the Zambesi Expedition

Scope and Content

Photographs taken from [wet collodion paper] negatives prepared by John Kirk in his capacity as Livingstone's chief assistant on the second Zambesi Expedition, 1858-1863. Images from the Expedition include the hull of the Lady Nyassa ready for launching; the Lady Nyassa in the process of construction on the Zambesi; the Lady Nyassa on the Zambesi; the jungle at Tuputa, Zambesi, through which the explorers had to cut their way; a great Baobab Tree; Arab Dhow, off Zanzibar; view of a typical Elephant Marsh; Portuguese house at Tette [Tete] in which Livingstone and Kirk lived for a time; ivory and carriers. Includes a photograph of the grave of Mrs Livingstone as it was immediately after the burial [Mrs Livingstone died at Shupanga on the Zambesi River on 27 Apr 1862]. Also includes photograph of a sketch by Kirk showing the Relorabasa [?] Gorge, and a photograph of Kirk as an older man.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir John Kirk (1832-1922) was born at Barry in Forfarshire, Scotland, in 1832. After qualifying as a doctor in 1854, he volunteered for medical service in the Crimea and subsequently became Dr. David Livingstone’s chief assistant on his second Zambesi Expedition, 1858-1863. In 1866 Kirk was appointed Medical Officer and Vice-Consul of Zanzibar. He became Assistant Political Agent in 1868, Consul-General in 1873, and Political Agent in 1880. He retired from the consular service in 1887. Kirk’s period in Zanzibar coincided with the dramatic decline of the slave trade in East Africa, in which he played a prominent role, and with the extension of European interests into the interior. Upon his retirement to Sevenoaks he continued an active involvement in East Africa for some years. He was British Plenipotentiary at the Brussels Conference on the African Slave Trade, 1889-1890, a director of the Imperial British East Africa Company, and chairman of the government committee for the construction of the Uganda Railway. He died in 1922. [Source: National Library of Scotland]

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