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Section IV: Africa Missions

Part 12: West Africa (Sierra Leone), 1881-1934

The papers pre 1880 have been filmed in Parts 1, 2, and 5. The papers for the period 1935-1949 will be published in Part 13. Part 12 covers the Letter Books, 1883-1934, Original Papers, 1881-1934 and Precis Books for 1880-1881, 1887-1934.

The Letter Books for 1883-1934 contain copies of the outgoing correspondence from the Secretary in London to the missionaries and others concerned with mission affairs. The letters are indexed by name of recipient. Diverse items are included: circular letters re the adoption of converts to Christianity and employment of native agents; letters from Bishops in Sierra Leone and from the Colonial Office and the Archbishop of Canterbury in England; list of books in stock at CMS London; reports re payments received by missionaries for work done for the government; circulars to West African agents and congregations; circular questionnaires from various sources such as The Native Races and the Liquor Traffic United Committee; Centenary Review Committee questions; reports by missionaries on visiting the Sierra Leone mission; letters to missionaries engaged in educational work; circulars re taking home a native from the mission field; memoranda on the development of church organisation in the mission field; reports on meetings held at CMS house regarding the Fourah Bay College; regulations for pensions for missionaries; reports on the place of women in the Church in the mission field.

The Original Papers for the years 1881-1934 contain a mixture of material. There are letters, annual reports and very detailed and interesting journals of missionaries about their work in the mission; newspaper cuttings and copies of newspapers such as The West African Reporter, The Freetown Express and Christian Observer, West Educational Times, The Sierra Leone Missionary Gleaner, Saturday Mo Monthly, Sierra Leone Messenger, The Sierra Leone Weekly News, The Sierra Leone Church Guardian, The Sierra Leone Church Chronicle, The West Africa Mail and Trade Gazette; financial statements for the Grammar School and Church Committee; reports on the 1881 Census of Sierra Leone and its dependencies showing the increase and decrease in females and males since 1871; lists of scholars at Fourah Bay College showing their nationality, birthplace and education with reports on the College; photographs of mission establishments such as Wilberforce Hall and of native pastors and local people; examination papers; statistics of the Sierra Leone Church.

Also included are plans for mission buildings such as the Annie Walsh Memorial School; printed sermons; pamphlets of The Women’s Missionary Institute and Medical Mission; annual reports of the different mission areas within the Sierra Leone mission; pamphlets re the Grammar School at Freetown with photographs, expenses and results of exams; the first annual report of the Princess Christian College, 1893; report on the ancient town of Falaka with a vivid description of the chief and the language spoken; maps of the mission areas; minutes of the Executive Committee with brief reports from missionaries re their work and itineration; lists of native agents employed by the Sierra Leone Native Church with name of station and salary; magazines entitled The Sierra Leone Church Monthly Magazine and Our Monthly Magazine and the first and following issues of The Fourah Bay College Quarterly Magazine; items written in the Africa native language together with the grammar for African languages such as Mende; Annie Walsh School financial estimates; Travelling Superintendents’ reports; reports on the Pan-Anglican Congress.

The Precis Books for 1880-1881 and 1887-1934 consist of a printed precis of the Original Papers prepared for meetings of the Group Committee. The contents of the precis therefore mirror the contents of the Original Papers as described above. Each precis comprises number, date, writer, date received, summary of contents, proposals for committee action to be taken and/or the secretary’s remarks.

The CMS Archives reveal much about Sierra Leone history and culture. They record the collision between western and indigenous cultures and the changes that resulted from this. They describe the introduction of western medicine, the establishment of education and the confrontations and compromises which arose. The papers are a rich source for ethnologists, social historians and all those trying to understand Africa before and after missionary intervention.

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