Papua New Guinea Incoming Correspondence

Scope and Content

Incoming correspondence from missionaries in the Papua mission field to the London Missionary Society headquarters, from 1872. The letters have been written predominantly by missionaries in the field, but there are also letters from the wives of missionaries, captains of the ships transporting the missionaries, and colonial officials.

Detailed cataloguing of letters has been completed at file level for the period 1872-1900. Catalogue entries provide the names of correspondents, dates of letters, places and in some cases an indication of the subject matter. Letters from 1900 onwards have yet to be catalogued.

Early letters illustrate the beginnings of the mission to Southern Papua, which was launched from Australia via the Torres Straits Islands in 1870. Missionaries were transferred from the islands of the South Seas, bringing with them on the missionary ship John Williams numerous volunteers from the Loyalty Islands [Iles Loyauté] in New Caledonia. The South Sea Islander missionaries made a major contribution to building the Congregational Church (Papua Ekalesia, later becoming through union the United Church in Papua New Guinea (UCPNG). Mission stations were established at Murray Island, Iokea, Delena [modern Poukama], Port Moresby, Yatorata, Kerepunu, and Kwato. Prolific correspondents in this early period include Samuel MacFarlane, William Lawes, James Chalmers, Harry Dauncey, Frederick Walker and Charles Abel. As well as the missionary ship John Williams, the Papua mission also used their own smaller vessels including the Ellengowan, Mayri and Harrier to supply mission stations and explore the coast, inlets and watercourses, especially the lengthy Fly River. Included with letters are some sketch maps made by James Chalmers showing places he visited and his estimate of their population totals. By 1890 Sir William Macgregor, administrator of New Guinea, was commenting in print on the decline in missionary presence. His letters to the LMS appear in the files 1895-1898. Tropical illnesses affected missionaries and their families severely; many deaths and departures resulted.


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 list for Papua New Guinea Incoming Correspondence, 1872-1900 (list D2), available for consultation in Special Collections Reading Room, SOAS Library.

Archivist's Note