University of Botswana History Department

Electronic texts

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Complete on-line electronic texts of:
David Livingstone, Missionary Travels
Sol Plaatje, Native Life in South Africa
See also further etexts in the Schapera E-library
Black Prince: A Biography of Tshekedi Khama by Michael Crowder
The unfinished typescript by the late Michael Crowder of his biography of Tshekedi Khama (1905-1959)
Glimpses of Bechuana Life (May 1890)
a published account of a visit to Mafikeng in 1890

Project Gutenberg has placed a large number of out-of-copyright texts on-line in plain-text form. These texts, which can be freely downloaded and reproduced, include some of interest to historians of Africa, including Native Life in South Africa by Sol Plaatje, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, by David Livingstone, and works by Olive Schreiner. The Project Gutenberg main site contains complete lists, and links to various extra FTP sites from which the texts can be dowloaded. (This is important because it is likely to be much quicker downloading from a site near you.) There is one such FTP site in South Africa. It will be quicker to download the .zip versions of the files; see below for how to deal with .zip files.

If you are downloading from the South African FTP site, or some other such site, it may be a little difficult to locate the file you want. (In the Project Gutenberg main site you should have no difficulty.) The easiest way to proceed is as follows. First, go to the Project Gutenberg main site and get the complete list of texts. (it is worth downloading and saving this file for future reference.) Find the title you want. Now note (i) the year of its release and (ii) the filename. For example, suppose you are looking for David Livingstone, Missionary Travels. Its entry reads:

Sep 1997 Missionary Travels in South Africa, by Livingstone[]1039

The date of release is 1997, and the filename is The "x"s represent version number and extsnsion, which can vary. The first version will be mtrav10 (for "version 1.0") and the extsnsion may be either .txt (for the actual text file) or .zip (for the ZIP compressed version which is quicker to download. Project Gutenberg texts have been given short filenames of this sort to ensure the widest possible compatibility - although Windows now allows long filenames, DOS only allows eight characters in filenames (not counting the three-character extension).

Now go to the ftp site. The files will be arranged in folders by year of release. Find the 1997 folder (i.e. etext97). In this folder you will find the files mtrav10.txt and Now download one of these. (The .txt file is in its final form; in the case of the .zip file you will need to unzip it after downloading.)

Two texts have been included in this site: David Livingstone, Missionary Travels and Sol Plaatje, Native Life in South Africa. When we first put them on-line, we used the complete electronic text of each book (as one file); but the files were so large that most of our readers found it took an impractically long time to open them. We have therefore split up the files, presenting the books in a series of files, one chapter per file. Readers who would like copies of the complete books will probably find it easiest to download the .zip files from Project Gutenberg or one of its mirrors.

[Technical note: Each chapter is an HTML file, but the Project Gutenberg "Vanilla ASCII" text has been included within the HTML files without alteration by enclosing it within <PRE> </PRE> tags]

These are free and out of copyright, but see the legal notice at the start of each text.

Alternatively, you can go to the Project Gutenberg site for a list of ftp download sites for these books both in .txt and .zip versions:

See also Prof. Neil Parsons's introduction for the Project Gutenberg text of Sol Plaatje, Native Life in South Africa.


FTP stands for "File Transfer Protocol". FTP is one of the older methods of using the Internet, pre-dating the HTTP connection used by modern web-browsers. It is still used for transferring large files like Gutenberg texts. Browsers can manage FTP connections for you. However, for downloading Gutenberg texts etc. you may find it useful to use a specialized "FTP client". See the software page for discussion of available free programs.

How to unzip files

To open .zip files you will need an UNZIP program, but these can be got as "freeware" - i.e. software which the creators have made freely available without charge. Such programs can usually be downloaded easily from the Internet. For example, there is a free DOS unzip program available at which is only 30 KB. Place it and the .zip file (say "") in the same directory, and in DOS type
which will produce the unzipped file, say "selo.exe".

There are also more sophisticated Windows unzip programs available free, such as the HJ-Zip (322 KB).

See the software page for more details.

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Copyright © 1999 University of Botswana History Department
Last updated 3 Jan. 2007 [PAGE ENDS]