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Charles John Andersson

A biographical text on Charles John Andersson and below the amazing images from his two classic books: 
‘Lake Ngami’ and ‘River Okavango’

CHARLES JOHN ANDERSSON Charles John Andersson was an explorer in the south west of Africa during the mid 1800s. He was the son of Llewellyn Lloyd, the famous British bear hunter and zoologist who lived and worked in Sweden for over two decades, until his death in 1876.

Charles John Andersson, one of the premier explorers in Africa during the mid 1800’s, grew up and received his schooling in Vänersborg, Sweden. The establishment of the Vänersborg museum was founded in part on his personal zoological research.

Brita Cajsa Andersdotter (1804-1892) was the name of Charles John Andersson’s mother, generally referred to as his father, Llewellyn Lloyd’s, Swedish maidservant, who gave birth to their illegitimate son, in Värmland on the 4th March 1827. According to Birgitta Lau who compiled and edited his letters in the publication “Charles John Anderson: Trade and Politics in Central Namibia 1860-1864”, his papers record at least six siblings: Marie, Sophie, Henrietta, Joseph, Wilhelm and Philip. It is not known if Brita Cajsa Andersdottar was the mother of any of his other siblings. His father Llewellyn Lloyd had intimate relationships with a number of women who subsequently bore him children. Llewellyn Lloyd lived with Brita Cajsa and Charles John for several years, and then moved to Vänersborg around 1830. His son followed him when the time came for him to attend school. Extra curricular studies provided by his father gave him the basics of zoology, focusing on ornithology, and conservation technologies.

Charles John spent most of his childhood with his father. His father did not give Charles John the surname Lloyd, perhaps because he was not married to Brita Cajsa. Charles John therefore took his mother’s surname, the femal Andersdottor changed to the male Andersson. After the publication of Charles John Adersson’s two books on his travels in the south west of Africa, “Lake Ngami” and “The Okavango river”, it is rumoured that his father Llewllyn Lloyd, suggested that he take on the name Lloyd. Charles John is reputed to have politely declined the offer, preferring to keep his mother’s name. There is no further information about his mother, her whereabouts or details of her life in any literature that we have come across so far. 

Llewellyn Lloyd housed at least two of Charles John’s sisters in the various lodgings he rented in Värnersborg along with his son.  Lloyd never learnt to speak Swedish and his children spoke with him in English. Charles John’s books were first published in English and then translated into Swedish and German. All his letters, journals and notes were also written in English. It seems that his Father-tongue took precedence over his Mother-tongue, which is not surprising considering that he was brought up by his father.

Through family contacts in England, Andersson managed to join British physician and explorer Francis Galton (1822-1911) on his trip to South West Africa, now Namibia, in 1850. Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin, wished to reach Lake Ngami, situated in the northern part of today’s Botswana. Livingstone had come across this ephemeral lake site the previous year in 1849. After 18 months the expedition still had not reached its target, delayed by exhaustion and drought. Galton returned to England while Andersson chose to remain in Africa to pursue the dream of visiting the lake. After several months in Cape Town, preparing for his own expedition, Andersson finally reached Ngami in 1853. Experiences from both expeditions where published in the book ‘Lake Ngami’ in London in 1856. In the same year Andersson re-visited Europe and his hometown Vänersborg .

When Andersson returned to South Africa, he undertook another major expedition, this time to the north and the river Okavango. This trip was published in the book – ‘The Okavango River’ in 1861. At the same time Andersson came to establish a trading post at Otjimbingue in the central part of today’s Namibia. In order to protect his commercial interests in cattle and ivory Andersson allied himself with the Herero, Orlam – Nama. In the conflict which later became known as The Andersson War, Andersson was helped to build up an army of nearly 2 500 Herero men by the Herero Chiefs.

Anderssons trading post in Otjimbingue however, came to be phased out in the mid 1860s. In an attempt to establish a trade route from northern Namibia to Portuguese Angola, Charles John Andersson died during an expedition on the Angolan border in 1867. 


Few people know that Charles Darwin corresponded with the bear-hunter Llewellyn Lloyd, an Englishman who settled in Vänersborg in the 1820’s. In Darwin’s books, there are numerous references to Lloyd’s zoological studies in western Sweden.

In 1859 the book ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection’, or ‘The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life’, was published in London. The publication caused revolution within the scientific establishment.

The author, Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, England, in the year of 1809. At an early age, he showed a keen interest in natural science, mainly geology and zoology. In 1831 he was given the opportunity to accompany the ship ‘The Beagle’ on it’s Second Survey expedition commencing in 1831 and ending five years later in 1836. The scientific research that young Darwin made during the trip would much later prove to be of fundamental importance for his scientific theory.

Inspired by economist Thomas Malthus’ (1766-1834) ideas about population-growth, in the 1840’s Darwin developed a theory of species destruction or alteration. Destruction or alteration would, according to these thoughts, depend on the individual’s ability to survive in different environments with respect to individuals’ different properties – the survival of the best adapted. The individual characteristics arose by chance while the environment decided which properties or individuals would survive and were able to have offspring. After a long series of generations, new species or varieties could develop. The theory was launched in 1858 in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society, and was developed in the mentioned book the following year.

Darwin’s theories on the origin of species caused a fierce debate, especially between science and the church. When Darwin published ‘The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex’ in 1871, his theory of natural selection was already on its way to conquer the world of research. Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton with whom Charles John Andersson first travelled to southern Africa, went on to use Darwin’s theories to develop ‘Eugenics’. He devoted the latter part of his life to eugenics, an attempt to improve the physical and mental makeup of the human species by selected parenthood. He inquired into racial differences, something unacceptable today, and was one of the first to employ questionnaire and survey methods, which he used to investigate mental imagery in different groups of people.

An interesting fact in the context of this website is that Darwin corresponded with both Charles John Andersson and Llewellyn Lloyd. In particular, he became interested in Lloyd’s studies of Swedish ornothology. In ‘The Descent of Man’, Darwin makes numerous references to Lloyds works. Charles Darwin died in Downe, England, in 1882.

Reference source
Vänersborg museum