Reading this week:
- The Last Gift by Abdulrazak Gurnah
In the unsustainably short interval of only five weeks, I am once again pleased to announce the third part of my ongoing project to transcribe every article in The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society relating to their Central Africa mission. The interval was so short because it has been a very slow period at work, but also because this is a teeny-tiny update, at a mere 38,000 words. I was wondering if this update would put the totals for this project above the 200,000 word mark, but it was not to be.
In this third semi-decade of the Central Africa Mission’s existence, it seems to be gaining a very different character. The reporting on the Mission in the Chronicle really took a nosedive. Part of the reason for that is fighting in the area cutting off the mails and therefore communication with the mission, so the Chronicle was forced to just give mild speculation based on rumors they had heard with no actual information. But I think a much bigger reason is that the Mission had simply become just another mission.
By this point they were fairly well established in Central Africa. They had four main stations – Urambo, their first permanent station; Kavala Island, where they had set up their marine department when it was clear they were unwelcome in Ujiji; Niamkolo (spelled Niumkorlo during these years) to get a presence at the south end of the lake; and Fwambo, a newly established mission “fifty miles inland on the route to Lake Nyassa” (I think this is now Kawimbe Mission, but I am not sure). The routes to these stations were well-established, the mail fairly regular (when there wasn’t fighting), and the Missionaries were spending their time building their infrastructure and their trust with the local communities. This is not the exciting part of missionary work. If there was exciting stuff, it wasn’t actually reported in the Chronicle – often the editor notes that urgent news had been reported in the daily papers, and in this magazine they were then just noting that all had turned out well (or not).
The Mission also starts to be swept up in world events. In 1876 they were some of the only Europeans in the area, but by 1890 colonization is starting to firmly take hold. Part of the reason for the fighting that cut off the mails is that the Germans were attempting to take hold of what would become German East Africa, and the native peoples were fighting back. Then in March of 1890 the Chronicle is reporting on a speech from the Duke of Fife where he discusses the recently founded British South Africa Company. And in December of 1890 they even note that Urambo is likely to be made a military station. The London Missionary Society in 1890 is no longer the vanguard of the European takeover in the Tanganyika region.
For our interests here in this blog there are a few other developments. This era is when James Hemans heads to the mission. On the other hand, our man Ed Hore has left the mission, with the latest news that he has gone on a tour of the Society’s missions around Australia. His wife, Annie Hore, was left in London to give birth to their daughter. Annie had been the first woman sent out to Central Africa by the Society and founded the Mission’s first school, the Kavala Island Girls’ School pictured above. While she was the first, in this era it is now becoming common for men to go out with their wives, a further signal that Central Africa was no longer the wild domain of only people like Livingstone and Stanley, as far as Europe was concerned.
Although the London Missionary Society might have felt that Central Africa was no longer so dangerous, with family life taking hold in the Mission comes the normal tragedies of everyday existence. In June 1889’s “Announcements” they report under Births: “Jones – November 16th, at Fwambo, Central Africa, the wife of the Rev. D.P. Jones, of a son.” Then, on the very next line under Deaths: “Jones – December 26th, at Fwambo, Central Africa, the infant son of the Rev. D.P. Jones, aged 6 weeks.”
As ever, if you find this work useful, please let me know. I’d be excited to collaborate.