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The Rev Dr Robert Laws and missionary activity in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia from the Scottish Foreign Missions Archive at the National Library of Scotland

Named in honour of David Livingstone (1813-1873), the Livingstonia Mission was founded in 1875 for the Free Church of Scotland by Lieutenant E D Young and a young medical officer, Dr Robert Laws. Initially based on the southern shores of Lake Malawi at Cape Maclear, the work of the mission eventually reached out to what are now called Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.

Dr Robert Laws (1851-1934) took over the running of the mission in 1878 and – remarkably – continued in that post until 1927.

The surviving mission records make for compelling reading and include:

  • Journals of Mission Stations (featuring three Cape Maclear journals)
  • Letters from missionaries in Livingstonia, 1874-1926
  • Letter-books of the Secretary of the Livingstonia Committee in Scotland, 1901-1934
  • Letters to Dr Laws from other missionaries, 1887-1896
  • Private and official letters of Dr Laws, 1875-1900

Laws was responsible for creating a sizeable Christian community in the region, as well as recording seven African languages, founding over 700 schools and encouraging native associations. He fought against the continuing Arab Slave Trade, helped to reconcile local tribes and played a leading role in educating and encouraging local individuals such as David Kaunda.

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