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The Missionary and the Rainmaker

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David Livingstone, the Bakwena, and the Nature of Medicine

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For more content, please see Le Fait Missionnaire.

The dialogue between the missionary and the rainmaker found in various forms in David Livingstone’s writings needs to be interpreted against the background of Livingstone’s relationship with the Bakwena during the late 1840s, a time of severe drought and one in which chief Sechele’s repudiation of his rainmaking functions after his baptism threatened the displeasure of the ancestors. Livingstone’s recording of the dialogue reveals his indebtedness to the moral philosophy of the Scottish thinker, Thomas Dick, but also suggests that Livingstone remained fascinated by the very African cosmology that his Christian faith and Scottish scientism led him to repudiate.

Affiliations: 1: University of Edinburgh, U.K.


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