Central Africa

Administrative / Biographical History

The Central Africa Mission was launched by the London Missionary Society in 1877 and by 1893, the Society had sent out 36 missionaries. Of these missionaries, 11 died and 14 gave up missionary work, often after brief periods of service. Many of the early missionaries were affected by diseases such as sleeping sickness due to the geographical location of the early stations at Kavala and Niamkolo. Kavala was abandoned in 1889. Despite this poor start, a new station was opened at Kambole is 1895, adding to the stations at Niamkolo and Kawimbe (Fwambo), and Mbereshi was established in 1900 among the Bemba people. By the beginning of the 20th century work was centered on Kawimbe, Kambole and Mbereshi. Residential stations were further opened at Mpolokoso (Kashinda) in 1908, Kawulfe in 1922 and Senga in 1923.

The Central Africa mission covered the area to the South of Lake Tanginyika [Lake Tanzania], in an area that was to become Northern Rhodesia, and subsequently Zambia. The focus of the mission field was in the territory which became North Eastern Rhodesia where the British South Africa Company had had administrative control. The LMS also worked in the area known as the Copperbelt, which experienced industrial expansion from 1925, but this work was jointly carried out with other missionary societies under the auspices of the United Missions in the Copperbelt.

In 1915, an important step forward was taken with the establishment of a boarding school for Girls at Mbereshi [later the Livingstone Memorial School], under the guidance of Mabel Shaw, and of the appointment of women missionaries to specialise in work amongst women and girls. The Bemba work centred on Mbereshi was further strengthened by medical missionary work, and with the opening of a clinic and teaching centre in maternity and welfare work. The Central Africa Mission was also responsible for industrial as well as educational work, which included training in skills such as carpentry, blacksmithing, and horticulture. For example an agricultural training centre was opened at Senga.

Difficulties in the Central African Mission and the slow growth in numbers of church members meant that Central African churches were dependent on missionary leadership to a large extent. It was not until 1938 that three African ministers were ordained, products of the Mbereshi Bible School. However, In 1945 the General Council of the LMS in Northern Rhodesia joined with the Union Church of the Copperbelt and the North Eastern Presbytery in Rhodesia of the Church of Central Africa to form the Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia. By 1954 the Central Africa district committee ceased and a mission council took over. By 1962 all work of the mission came under the United Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia, and in 1965 the United Church of Zambia was inaugurated.


Material is arranged into the following classes: Incoming correspondence (1876-1927); Incoming/outgoing correspondence (1928-1940); Central Africa Correspondence (1940-1950); Journals (1877-1886); Reports (1880-1940).

Central Africa material after 1940 can be found amongst the Africa division materials, which include correspondence (from 1950), subject files and reports. Miscellaneous papers are also catalogued under the Odds series in the Africa division. Photographs relating to Central Africa also appear as files amongst the Africa photographs.

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