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George Shepperson Collection

Identifier: MS Group 206

Scope and Content

Including correspondence, lectures, addresses, speeches, news clippings, tourist brochures, pamphlets, newsletters, notes, notebooks, unpublished manuscripts, photographs, posters, maps, and reproductions of painting and drawings, this collection is mostly composed of materials connected with Shepperson's research and activities surrounding various David Livingstone projects.

The centenary of David Livingstone's death in 1973 heralded an increased scholarly and popular interest in the missionary-explorer, particularly in Scotland. Shepperson played an important role in the events and endeavors associated with the centenary, most notably as Chairman of the David Livingstone Documentation Project. His correspondence relating to that position is well represented in the collection. At the time, he also gave many popular speeches and addresses for several academic groups about Livingstone, many of which are included here. Also included are a number of materials associated with various centenary events held at the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre, Scotland and the David Livingstone Memorial in Malawi, encompassing newsletters, pamphlets, tourist brochures, correspondence, and reports of the Scottish National Memorial to David Livingstone Trust.

The collection also contains the research materials Shepperson used to write his book David Livingstone and the Rovuma. This includes photocopies of Livingstone's notebooks and diaries, reproductions of Thomas Baines' paintings of Livingstone's Zambezi expeditions, and materials related to Vero Bosazza. Bosazza, a field geologist with expertise in southern and central Africa, was a keen supporter of the scientific findings made during Livingstone's Zambezi expeditions. The collection includes Bosazza and Shepperson's extensive correspondence on that topic, as well as number of Bosazza's maps, photographs, and unpublished writings pertaining to the Zambezi.


  • Creation: 1852-1989
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1931-1989


Language of Materials

Includes materials written in English and Spanish.


The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

George Shepperson was born in Peterborough, England in 1922. After studying history and English at Cambridge University, he was seconded as an officer to the King's African Rifles during the Second World War. Serving alongside African soldiers in Burma, he became interested in examining how war and slavery forged the African Diaspora. While stationed in East Africa, he became interested in how African communities were incorporated into the British Empire. These experiences bolstered his lifelong commitment to the study of Africa and its Diaspora.

Upon his return to the United Kingdom in 1948, Shepperson was appointed Lecturer in Imperial and American History at Edinburgh University. He was later awarded the position of William Robertson Professor of Commonwealth and American History (1963-1986). Throughout his career he focused specifically on British Central Africa (1891-1907) and Nyasaland (which became the independent state of Malawi in 1964), and on nineteenth century African-American life.

Shepperson is recognized as one of the founders of African, African Diaspora, and African American studies in Britain. He conducted pioneering studies of the relationships created among North America, Great Britain, and Africa through evangelism, war, and imperialism. Apart from training a new cohort of scholars who would become experts on these topics, he also secured the preservation of a number of important archival sources for future generations of historians.

Shepperson has held Visiting Professorships, Fellowships and Scholarships on both sides of the Atlantic and in Africa itself. Shepperson is a noted authority on Dr. David Livingstone, John Chilembwe, and Frederick Douglass. His key works include Independent African: John Chilembwe (1958), detailing an important anti-colonial uprising in Nyasaland, and David Livingstone and the Rovuma (1964), an account of Livingstone's troubled exploration of this tributary of the Zambezi River. These monographs, alongside his many contributions to edited volumes and journals, are regarded as seminal. In an edited volume entitled The Emergence of African History at British Universities: An Autobiographical Approach (1995, edited by Anthony Kirk-Greene), Shepperson provides an account of his life as an Africanist historian.


1.5 Linear feet (4 boxes; 1 oversize folder)


Materials related to Shepperson's research and activities surrounding various David Livingstone projects, including the centenary of Livingstone's death in 1973.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

A Guide to the George Shepperson Collection
Finding aid created by Danielle Altman and Dan Reboussin
March 2007
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America