Central Africa Incoming Correspondence

Scope and Content

Incoming correspondence from missionaries in Central Africa to the London Missionary Society headquarters.

Detailed cataloguing has been completed at file level for the period 1876-1899. Catalogue entries provide the names of correspondents, dates, places, and in some cases a summary of the subject matter. Letters for the later period have yet to be catalogued.

Letters in the series relate to the LMS mission in Western Tanzania and around Lake Tanganyika, with some links to Lake Nyasa [Lake Malawi]. The letters were sent from places now within the modern states of Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Burundi, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and some were sent by missionaries en route who despatched mail from places now within the territories of Italy, Malta, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Zimbabwe and South Africa. A major feature of the mission was the transportation from Britain of lake vessels which enabled transport throughout the Lakes region, notably under the captaincy of Edward Hore. The ‘Morning Star’ reached Ujiji overland in 1883.

In the early years of the mission, correspondents write from David Livingstone’s old station at Ujiji (near lake-side Kigoma,Tanzania), but this proved an unhealthy location. More permanent were stations at Urambo (in the Tabora region of Tanzania), Fwambo (a hill station in Zambia close to the Tanzania border), Niamkolo (just East of Mpulungu, Zambia) and Kambole (at the extreme southern point of Lake Tanganyika. There was also for a time a station at Mtowa, Uguha on the West bank of Lake Tanganyika not far from modern Kalémié (formerly Albertville) in Katanga, DRC. Schools were conducted at Fwambo intermittently and more regularly at Niamkolo. There was a significant medical element to the mission, with Dr Ebenezer Southon, Dr John Tomory, Dr Charles Mather, Dr George Wolfendale and Dr James Mackay. Among the principal correspondents other than those already mentioned were Thomas Shaw, Alfred Swann, David Picton Jones and Alexander Carson.

The missionaries met with many dangers and illnesses, and many were lost to early deaths. The period covered coincides with the great European powers’ scramble for Africa and the lessening of the slave trade in the heart of Africa. The correspondence reflects these contemporary events.


Until 1927, the LMS kept all correspondence received from the mission field in strict chronological order. From approximately the last quarter of the 19th century, each letter has a cover sheet, which gives it a unique number, date sent, date received by the Home Office, the appropriate governing region (Eastern, Southern etc) and a precis of contents. The arrangement of incoming correspondence changed in 1928, when the administrative decision was made to file incoming and outgoing correspondence together in alphabetical files from individuals.

Conditions Governing Access


Other Finding Aids

*A detailed list for Central Africa Incoming Correspondence, 1876-1899 (list E1) is available for available for consultation in the Special Collections Reading Room, SOAS Library.

Archivist's Note