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The SUM in Nigeria, The Cameroons, Chad, Sudan and Other African Territories

Part 1: Manuscript Papers from the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, New College, University of Edinburgh, 1898-1960

"The SUM was an international mission organization founded in Britain by the German missionary Karl Kumm, 'the last of the Livingstonians.' The SUM was an umbrella mission, meaning that from its offices in London it provided the organizational apparatus that allowed a number of national churches, such as the Christian Reformed Church from the United States and the Dutch Reformed Church from South Africa, to develop and evangelize selected mission fields. Thus its archives provide real insight into the co-operative effort to Christianize Africa undertaken by Protestant churches. As a mission that appeared after the great push of European colonialism, from the begining the SUM was called upon by colonial governments to provide education and other social services for Africans. Thus its archives also tell the story of colonial efforts at social welfare. At the start of the colonial era, SUM mission stations were occupied almost exclusively by European missionaries. By the end of that era, the majority of the people working at those mission stations were African Christians. The SUM's archives lastly supplies some idea of the 'Africanization' of Christian missions and how African Christians turned the Christian churches built by European missionaries toward local social, political and religious concerns."

Professor Andrew Barnes, Department of History

Arizona State University

The Archive of the Sudan United Mission (SUM), held at the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, New College, University of Edinburgh, is an important resource for the study of missionary work, education, medical work, evangelism, the emergence of native churches and the growth of nationalist sentiment in Africa in the twentieth century.

Initially founded as the Sudan Pioneer Mission, SUM took its name from the concept of Greater Sudan. At the beginning of the twentieth century many of the colonial boundaries were in a state of flux and Greater Sudan comprised a vast area of Africa stretching from the coasts of Nigeria, the Cameroons in the west, to Chad and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan further east. The main aim of the SUM was to halt the advance of Islam across this huge swathe of territory. Initial efforts focused on the Benue region in Nigeria.

The SUM manuscripts span the period 1898-1960 and allows researchers to study:

  • The correspondence of the founders of the mission, Karl and Lucy Kumm.
  • The work of J Lowry Maxwell amongst the Hausa-speaking and Jukun tribes and his insights into African language, culture and customs.
  • SUM activities in Northern Nigeria and the inter-action of missionaries with the indigenes in the Middle Belt Movement.
  • The crucial role of the hospitals and leprosy settlements in Nigeria, bringing medical advances to the region and providing worthwhile training and jobs for Africans in Nigeria.  
  • The importance of education, new schools and training colleges in both Nigeria and the Sudan.
  • Reports from the range of different mission stations.
  • The tremendous political and social changes in Africa which gathered momentum after 1920, culminating in independence movements and a vibrant Pan-Africanism.
  • SUM’s commitment from 1904 to the establishment of indigenous African Churches and its changing role once this had been achieved.  
  • SUM’s activities in Nigeria, Chad, the Cameroons and Anglo-Egyptian Sudan
Bautchi Woman and Chilld


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