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CHURCH MISSIONARY SOCIETY ARCHIVE
Section IV: Africa Missions

Part 17: Kenya Mission, 1880-1934

Shortly after the closure of its short-lived mission to the Zulus (1837-41), the Church Missionary Society (CMS) began to consider working in Nigeria. The Rev Ludwig Krapf had decided to attempt to reach the inland tribes from the East Coast and came to Mombasa with other CMS missionaries, all of whom had been forced to leave Ethiopia. John Rebmann joined him in 1846 and they established a mission at Rabai, embarking on several expeditions which were to bring them incidental fame as explorers, not least as the European discoverers of Mount Kilimanjaro. Krapf returned to Germany in 1855 and for twenty years Rebmann was to work on alone, studying the language and (after he became blind) being cared for by a small band of Christians.

In 1872 a fresh start was made. The British government sent Sir Bartle Frere to negotiate a treaty with Zanzibar for the suppression of the slave-trade. On Frere's return he urged CMS to establish a settlement near Mombasa for the slaves freed from Arab raiders. The society sent out the Rev W S Price, who had been working among such slaves at Nasik in Western India. Land was purchased for an industrial colony (named Frere Town) and work began in 1875.

Progress was slow but in 1885 work began to spread to the interior. However, German annexations in Tanganyika swiftly led to opposition from the local people and eventually to the severing of all communications. As a result Frere Town and Rabai remained the two main centres of the Kenya mission for the remainder of the century.

There were many missionary societies and Christian denominations working in Kenya and as their influence grew so did an overlapping of effort. A series of inter-mission conferences was held from 1908 seeking church unity and a federation of societies. The former was not achieved but in 1918 a representative council was appointed with the main members being Anglicans, Scottish Episcopalians and Methodists. The alliance aimed to work towards a united ministry based on overarching training but its most enduring contribution was in education - in the Alliance High School at Kikuyu which opened in 1926 and to which a CMS missionary, Carey Francis, was appointed headmaster in 1940.

CMS opened a hospital at Maseno in 1920 but in both medicine and education the government was so vigorous in its policies that individual institutions were not as important in mission development as they were in other countries.

Nonetheless, the missionaries did play an important part in political and social problems. Issues such as compulsory unpaid labour on public works, the emancipation of women and girls, and the ownership of land (particularly relating to the discovery of gold in the Kavirondo reserve) were all taken up on behalf of the Africans by church leaders and missionaries, of whom Archdeacon W E Owen was the outstanding CMS exponent throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

This part begins with the publication of the papers for Kenya for the period 1880-1934, featuring Letter Books, 1883-1934 and Original Papers, 1880-1900.

The Letter Books contain copies of outgoing correspondence from headquarter secretaries to the missionaries. Many of the letters comprise of instructions to new missionaries going out to Kenya but there is also a large focus on the daily running and organisation of the mission. Some of the highlights of these papers include:

- a resolution discussing the enlarged powers of the bishop in mission affairs
- letters from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York re the Uganda martyrs
- a translation of a letter from the girls of the orphanage at Amritsar
- a circular discussing biographies of native Christians, 1889 and the need for reinforcements, 1890

Also included are a circular and printed questionnaire from the Native Races and the Liquor Traffic United Committee, 1895; regulations on the marriage of CMS missionaries; a letter to missionaries engaged in educational work; and proposals for a federation of societies in British East Africa.

The Original Papers consist of incoming papers, such as letters, journals, reports and minutes, sent to London by the mission secretary. The letters address a diverse range of issues - from a letter on the formation of the town of Durima by slaves which was then scattered by the natives, to long letters from W S Price (secretary of the mission) on runaway slaves, to details on the local King and his attitude to the missionaries. Bishop R Tucker describes the impact of the termination of the East Africa Company's rule and the declaration by the African chiefs of the abolition of slavery whilst Miss Lisbeth Chadwick explains the challenges she faced as one of the first lady missionaries in the mission.

The reports featured here cover many different subjects, including:

- the work being done at Frere Town and Rabbai
- journeys to Nakamba, Nagiriama and Godoma
- the arrival of slaves at Frere Town
- the murder of Bishop Hannington
- the work of Miss Harvey at Frere Town and the proposed Shimba settlement
- the murder of men suspected of witchcraft by the Chief
- the troubles in Uganda by Captain Luggard
- the attack on Frere Town in January 1896
- the Native Conference at Frere Town
- the birth of a son to King Mwanga
- the condition and progress of the East Africa Protectorate from its establishment to 20 July 1897

The missionaries' annual letters and journals are full of interesting details on their work and on the life and customs of the local people. Two of the highlights are the detailed journals of Miss M Ackerman on earthquakes, local customs and famine in Rabai and Miss E M Furley's description of the celebrations in Kampala for the 60th Anniversary of Queen Victoria's reign. There are also several miscellaneous items, ranging from instructions on the use of grammar for the Gogo language to a sketch map showing part of East Central Africa to news cuttings on the slave trade off the East African coast to photographs of a missionary campsite.

The material in this part addresses almost every aspect of life in Kenya, political, cultural, social and religious, and offers a wealth of information for those scholars interested not only in the daily running and organisation of a mission station but also for those with an interest in Kenya at the turn of the century. The missionaries took a keen interest in all that was happening around them and their papers provide an invaluable insight into life in Africa, illustrating by the topics covered in this list of material all of which is featured in Part 17:

- a memo to European and British subjects on the blockade against the slave trade on the East Coast of Africa
- a copy of a decree by the Sultan of Zanzibar prohibiting slave traffic
- pamphlets of African language vocabularies
- a report on the death of Chief Mandara in December 1891
- a description of the hunting and poisoning of a man-eating lion
- a copy of the treaty between Mwanga, King of Uganda and the British East Africa Company, dated 26th December 1890
- a copy of the first native book printed and published in East Africa, 1893
- copies of The Taveta Chronicle
- a translation of a letter from King Daudi Kasagama, King of Toro asking for more lady missionaries
- a description of a plague of locusts which affected 20,000 square miles

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