Madagascar & Mauritius Incoming Correspondence

Scope and Content

Incoming correspondence from missionaries in the Mauritius and Madagascar mission field to the London Missionary Society headquarters. Includes correspondence from Mauritius, 1813-1876, and Madagascar, 1774-1927. The letters have been written predominantly by missionaries in the field, but there are also letters from the wives of missionaries; LMS officials, including directors, treasurers and secretaries; missionary committees; local chiefs, residents, artisans, church members and pastors; Malagasy Christians during the period of persecution; government officials and members of the Malagasy royal family, including King Radama I, Queen Ranavalona and King Radama II; representatives of other missionary societies operating in the field; representatives of private concerns, including businesses, agents, local and colonial officials, ships' captains and medical practitioners.

Detailed cataloguing of letters has been completed at file level for certain areas and dates. This includes letters for Mauritius, 1813-1848, and letters for Madagascar, 1774-1899. Catalogue entries provide the names of correspondents, dates of letters, places and a summary of the subject matter. Letters for the later period have yet to be catalogued. For details of the correspondence from each region, see separate descriptions (sub-series). Letters from 1900 onwards have yet to be catalogued.

It is worth noting that early correspondence for the region covers some of the issues surrounding the end of slavery. Both Madagascar and Mauritius were heavily affected by the slave trade: many people in Mauritius had been trafficked there and much of the European contact with Madagascar in the early 19th Century was connected to the slave trade. It is to be noted that missionaries did free slaves and that emancipation was confirmed by Hova King Radama, making missionary-freed slaves free subjects (1826), but difficulties arose when friendly rulers offered someone’s services to a missionary because that meant taking on a slave, which in principle the missionaries did not countenance. Some of the schooling set up by missionaries was to educate ex-slaves who might be any age, while other schools were set up for children only (often the children of slaves or ex-slaves). It should be noted that in the context of the letters, the term ‘apprentice’ refers to the ex-slaves during the period of their tutelage following emancipation day.


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.

Access Information


Other Finding Aids

Detailed lists of Incoming Correspondence for Mauritius, 1814-1848 (list E5), and Madagascar, 1774-1879 (list E2), and 1880-1899 (list E3), are available for consultation in the Special Collections Reading Room, SOAS Library. The lists for Madagascar contain very detailed descriptions of the subjects of incoming letters to the end of 1866, but after that (to 1879 in E2 and 1880-1899 in E3) only carry very occasional entries in relation to subject matter.

Archivist's Note