The Third Massacre Narrative

The page presents the narrative version of the Nyangwe massacre that David Livingstone included in a letter to Earl Granville (14 Nov. 1871) and copied into the Unyanyembe Journal (1866-72). The version here derives from the copy in the Journal.


Livingstone produced at least three narratives of the massacre he witnessed in Nyangwe on 15 July 1871. One narrative appears in the 1871 Field Diary (Livingstone 1871f:CXLVI-CXLVIII), another in the Unyanyembe Journal (Livingstone 1866-72:[691]-[696]). He includes an additional narrative, which he composed between the former two, in a 14 November 1871 letter to Earl Granville (Livingstone 1872d). Stanley brought this letter back to England, and it was published in the Parliamentary Papers of 1872 (LXX [C-598], 10-15), making it the only narrative of the massacre published in Livingstone's lifetime. Livingstone also copied the letter into the Unyanyembe Journal, where the letter precedes the Journal’s narrative of the massacre (the letter appears on pages [565]-[583]; the journal entries describing the massacre are on [691]-[696]). The transcription that follows derives from the copy of the letter in the Journal.

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[575]
[…] Two days afterwards o[r] on the 15th of June a massacre was perpetrated which filled me with such intolerable loathing that I resolved to yield to the Banian slaves = return to Ujiji get men from the coast – and try to finish the rest of my work by going outside the area of Ujijian bloodshed instead of vainly trying from its interior outwards –

[576]
Dugumbe and his people built their huts on the right bank of Lualaba at a market place called Nyangwe – On hearing that the head slave of a trader at Ujiji had in order to get canoes cheap, mixed blood with the headmen of the Bagenya on the left bank of the were disgusted with his assurance and resolved to punish him and make an impression in the country in favour of their own greatness by an assault on the market people, and on all the Bagenya who had dared to make friendship with any but themselves Tagamoio the principal undertrader of Dugumbe’s party was the perpetrator – The market was attended every fourth day by between 2000 and 3000 people – It was held on a long slope of land which down at the river ended in a creek capable of containing between fifty and sixty large canoes – The majority of the market people were women, many of them very pretty – The people west of the river brought fish salt pepper oil grass cloth iron fowls goats sheep pigs in great numbers to exchange with those East of the river for cassava, grain, potatoes and other farinaceous products – They have a strong sense of natural justice and all unite to force each other to fair dealing At first all were afraid of my presence but wishing to gain their confidence which my enemies tried to undermine or prevent, I went among them frequently and when they saw no harm in me became very gracious – The bargaining was the finest acting I ever saw I

[577]
understood but few of the words that flew off their glib tongues of the women but their gestures spoke plainly – I took sketches of the fifteen varieties of fish brought in to compare them with those of the Nile lower down – and all were eager to tell their names but on the date referred to I had left the market only a minute or two when three men whom I had seen with guns and felt inclined to reprove them for bringing them into the market but had refrained by attributing it to ignorance in new comers – They began to fire into the dense crowd around them another party down at the canoes rained their balls on the panic struck multitude that rushed into these vessels – all threw away their goods the men forgot their paddles – The canoes were jammed in the creek and could not be got out quick enough – so many men & women sprang into the water = The women of the left bank are expert divers for oysters = and a long line of heads shewed a crowd striking out for an island a mile off = To gain it they had to turn the left shoulder ^ \against/ a current of between a mile and a half to two miles an hour = Had they gone diagonally with the current, though that would have been three miles, many would have gained the shore It was horrible to see one head after another disappear – Some calmly – others throwing their arms high up towards the Great Father and going down – some of the men who got canoes out of the crowd paddled quickly with hands and arms to help their friends Three took people in till they all sank together – one man had clearly lost his head for he paddled a canoe which

[578]
would have held fifty people straight up stream = nowhere = The Arabs estimated the loss at between 400 & 500 souls – Dugumbe sent out some of his men in one of thirty canoes which the owners ^ \in their fright/ could not extricate to save the sinking – one lady refused to be taken on board because she thought that she was to be made a slave but he rescued twenty one and of his own accord sent them next day home Many escaped and came to me and were restored to their friends – When the firing began on the terror stricken crowd at the canoes – Tagamoio’s band began their assault on the people West of the river and continued the fire all day I counted seventeen villages in flames and next day six – Dugumbe’s power over the underlings is limited but he ordered them to cease shooting – those of Tagamoio’s party in the market were so reckless they shot two of their own number – Tagamoio’s crew came back next day in canoes shouting and firing off their guns as if believing that they were worthy of renown – Next day about twenty head men fled from the West bank and came to my house – There was no occasion now to tell them that the English had no desire for human blood – They begged hard that I should go over with them and settle with them and arrange where the new dwellings of each should be – I was so ashamed of the bloody Moslem company in which I found myself that I was unable to look at the Manyema – I confessed my grief and shame and was entreated, if I must go not to leave them now – Dugumbe spoke kindly to them and would protect them as well as he could against his own people

[579]
but when I went to Tagamoio to ask back the wives and daughters of the headmen he always ran off and hid himself – This massacre was the most terrible scene I ever saw – I cannot describe my feelings but am thankful I did not give way to them but by Dugumbe’s advice avoided a blood feud with men who for the time seemed turned into Demons – The whole transaction was the more deplorable inasmuch as we have always heard from the Manyema that though the men of the districts may be engaged in actual hostilities the women pass from on[e] market place to another with their wares and were never known to be molested The change has come only with these alien bloodhounds – and all the bloodshed has taken place in order that captives might be seized where it could be done without danger and in order that the slaving privileges of a petty sultan should produce abundant fruit – [...]

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