The Chronicle, 1891-1895

Reading this week:

  • The War That Doesn’t Say Its Name by Jason K. Stearns

Friends, I am stunned and astonished to say that I have completed yet another installment of my plan to transcribe every article in The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society relating to their Central Africa Mission (here is: 1876-1880, 1881-1885, 1886-1890). I have been starting with their stats, so I will let you know that this is even shorter than the previous “teeny-tiny update” at only 36,700 or so words. It does however have something like double the number of pictures as the preceding 15 years of articles combined.

Previously I posited that the amount of coverage the Central African Mission was getting had nosedived because it had become Just Another Mission within the London Missionary Society’s repertoire, and that I think is still true. My numbers are a little artificial too, because sometimes I skipped articles when the mention of the Mission was literally only passing. Also, the format of the Chronicle also changed during this time period to be longer and fancier (and with more pictures), but also mentions of the Central African Mission can arise in a wider variety of spots (different “Secretarial Notes,” in regular columns like “Month to Month” and “Personal Notes,” and sometimes in space-filling asides at the bottom of otherwise unrelated columns) so I am worried I missed some things, despite scrolling through every page. Another reason I think coverage was diminished in this era is because 1895 was the centenary of the London Missionary Society, and they were focused on their older missions, such as the South Seas and South Africa.

One of the themes I see running throughout these five years is the London Missionary Society coming to grips with the impact of colonization on their sought-after flock. Colonization is firmly established at this time – in 1894 they even see A.J. Swann resign his post with the Society “in consequence of his having accepted an official position under the British Administrator in Central Africa.” In general too the Society is in favor of colonization, welcoming a “flood” of Europeans into Africa even as they bemoan this flood is too focused on seeking gold over the spiritual enlightenment of the people. However, in a surprisingly (to me) progressive note, the Foreign Secretary, Rev. Thompson, worries about an effort by Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa Company to take what is now Botswana away from direct rule by the British Empire and put it under direct control of the company:

Now it transpires that Lord Knutsford, when Colonial Secretary, promised the Company that in due time the Bechwanaland Protectorate should be added to their dominions. Lord Ripon in turn confirmed this promise, and now Mr. Rhodes is agitating for the realization of the compact. The chiefs and people of Bechwanaland object to the change. They have no complaint to make against the Company, but they see that it is a company with the interests of its own shareholders to care for. They think that Imperial rule is likely to be more impartial and unbiased than even the best-intentioned financial corporation.

R. Wardlaw Thompson, October 1895

The Society is forced in this era to take a look at what they have wrought, and decide whether they approve of what they have done.

Just to mention a few other things that happened during this era. First, when describing a trip through Bembaland (here “Awemba”) in an article from January 1895, Rev. W. Thomas (not the Foreign Secretary) notes “How little credit the native gets, as a rule, in books of travel!” I’ve commented on the same thing to criticize my own writing, so good on him here. It is also during this time that a great era for the London Missionary Society came to and end: in a note on the “Proceedings of the Board” in May of 1894, they announce that “the sale of the Mission steamer, Good News, on Lake Tanganyika, Central Africa, to the African Lakes Company (Limited), was approved.” How short a useful life that boat lived despite all the effort and lives that went into putting it on the Lake. But by this time Kavala Island had been abandoned, with the focus of the Mission moving inland, and they had little use for it. Their needs seem to have been adequately met by the Morning Star, but it was wrecked in February of 1895 in a gale (though they think they can repair it). As I have mentioned, the whole reason I started researching this stuff was because I was interested in these boats.

Anyways! As I always say at the end of these posts, if you find this useful please leave a note at the bottom of the post. I would be very interested to see if anyone is as interested in this stuff as I am and are finding these transcriptions useful. Someday I want to compile them all into one big document (and it will be very big) with regularized spellings and a nice index and maybe biographical notes of the missionaries so it’s easy to see who was where, when. But there is a lot of typing to do between now and then.

P.S. – I don’t have a great place to put these, but check out these pictures by Rev. D.P. Jones of two dudes fishing at Niamkolo and a stockade fence with human skulls: