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Section IV: Africa Missions

Part 1: West Africa (Sierra Leone), 1803-1880

The focus here is on the West African Mission (Sierra Leone) for 1803-1880.  There is:

  • Early correspondence, 1803-1820.
  • Individual Letter Books for 1852-1873.
  • Letter Books for 1820-1883 and Mission Books for 1820-1880.

The documents reveal that the death toll amongst missionaries was very high from the start and this reached a climax in the yellow fever epidemic of 1823. The CMS needed to train Africans for the ministry as they had a better chance of survival in the harsh climate.  In 1827 a training institution was set up at Fourah Bay.  This was to become the University of Fourah Bay in due course – a place where many leading Sierra Leonians were to study.  The first student was Samuel Crowther, later Bishop of the Niger Territories.

  • Education was of prime importance as these early papers make clear.
  • Every mission station had its school, at first with the missionary and soon with an African Christian schoolmaster in charge.
  • There is good material on the boys’ grammar school opened by CMS in 1845 in Freetown.
  • In 1849 a secondary school for girls was set up and this later became famous as the Annie Walsh Memorial School.

“The archives of the Church Missionary Society’s Africa missions are among the most important documentary sources on 19th century European missionary enterprise in Africa.  They tell us much about Africa social history and thought during this period, and about the aspirations and prejudices of Victorian and Edwardian expansion. Their publication in microfilm will ensure that this material is for the first time placed within reach of a wide community of scholars. And as a timely measure in conservation it guarantees that this valuable material, some of it nearly two hundred years old, will be preserved using up-to-date techniques.”
Ike Achebe
Trinity College, University of Cambridge

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Introduction to the Archive

Digital Guide

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