Ralph Wardlaw Thompson Papers

Scope and Content

Papers, 1746-1918, of and relating to Dr Ralph Wardlaw Thompson and his family, comprising correspondence and papers concerning his antecedents and family, 1746-1872, including letters to the Rev Dr Ralph Wardlaw, 1795-1852, and papers concerning Dr John Wardlaw, 1838-1872; Bible given to Ralph Wardlaw Thompson by his parents, 1847; four letters to Thompson, 1851-1866, including one from Ralph Wardlaw; palm leaf address to Thompson and Albert Spicer, London Missionary Society (LMS) deputation members in India, 1882; Thompson's diaries of a deputational visit to India, China and South Africa, 1882-1883; notes of deputational visits to South Africa, 1892, 1898, and to the South Seas and Papua New Guinea, 1897; notes on the LMS conference at Shanghai and on a deputational visit to India, 1907; notes for speeches, 1880s-1890s and undated; decorative addresses presented to Thompson, 1880, 1908; letters received on Thompson's death, 1916; biographical material on Thompson collected by Basil Mathews, 1916-1918.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ralph Wardlaw Thompson was born into a London Missionary Society (LMS) family at Bellary, southern India, 1842; son of the Rev William Thompson and Jessie Crawford (daughter of the Rev Dr Ralph Wardlaw); moved to South Africa when his father became the LMS agent there; educated at the South African College, Cape Town; BA, University of the Cape of Good Hope; returned to England, but poor health prevented him from becoming a missionary, 1861; minister of Ewing Place Congregational Church, Glasgow, 1865-1870; minister of Norwood Congregational Church, Liverpool, 1871-1880; elected to the Board of Directors of the LMS, 1874; foreign secretary of the LMS, 1881-1914; visited missions in India, China, South Africa, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, and the South Seas; Chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales, 1908; leader at the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, 1910; first chairman of the Conference of British Missionary Societies; retired, 1914; Doctor of Divinity, Glasgow University and Edinburgh University; died, 1916. For further information see Basil Mathews, Dr Ralph Wardlaw Thompson (1917). Publications include: with Arthur N Johnson, British Foreign Missions 1837-1897 (1899); My Trip on the `John Williams' (1900); Griffith John: the story of 50 Years in China (1906).

Dr Ralph Wardlaw was born at Dalkeith, Mid-Lothian, Scotland, 1779; educated at the grammar school, Glasgow; matriculated at Glasgow University, 1791; entered the theological school; came under evangelical influence; completed his studies, 1800; became a Congregationalist; an independent chapel was erected for him in North Albion Street, Glasgow, 1803; married Jane Smith, 1803; eleven children; professor of systematic theology at the newly-founded Glasgow Theological Academy, 1811; secretary of the Glasgow auxiliary of the British and Foreign Bible Society and actively interested in the London Missionary Society; active in the anti-slavery movement; Doctor of Divinity, Yale College, Connecticut, 1818; a larger chapel was erected for him in West George Street, Glasgow, 1819; maintained his connection with his Glasgow chapel until his death; prominent in Britain and America as an author on theological questions; died at Easterhouse, 1853. Publications: various theological writings.

Dr John Smith Wardlaw was born, 1813; son of Ralph Wardlaw; LMS missionary in India; at Bellary, 1842-1855; at Vizagapatam, 1855-1858; returned to England, 1858; president of Farquhar House, Highgate (an LMS institute for training missionaries), 1863; Doctor of Divinity, Glasgow University, 1870; died, 1872.

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Acquisition Information

Deposited on permanent loan with the records of the London Missionary Society by the Congregational Council for World Mission (later Council for World Mission) in 1973.

Other Finding Aids

Detailed list of the papers of Ralph Wardlaw Thompson (list A3) is available for consultation at the School of Oriental and African Studies, SOAS Library.

Alternative Form Available

Published on microfiche by IDC Publishers.

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Who's Who for Ralph Wardlaw Thompson; Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed Gerald H Anderson (1998), for Ralph Wardlaw Thompson and John Smith Wardlaw; Dictionary of National Biography for Ralph Wardlaw; National Register of Archives; British Library OPAC.

Catalogued

Custodial History

The papers were deposited with the London Missionary Society and form part of the special series of personal papers of individual LMS missionaries and officers.

Related Material

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the London Missionary Society (Ref: CWM/LMS), including Ralph Wardlaw Thompson's letters in India, China, Mauritius and South Africa during his deputational visit, 1882-1883, and terms of reference for the 1907 deputational visit to India and China by Thompson, W Bolton and A W Whitley, 1906 (Ref: CWM/LMS Home Miscellaneous Box 8/3-4); several portrait photographs of Thompson (Ref: CWM/LMS General Portraits Box 6); and various other photographs of or relating to him. The LMS records also include John Smith Wardlaw's candidate's papers (Ref: CWM/LMS Candidates' Papers Box 17 No 9); a portrait of him (Ref: CWM/LMS Miniature Portraits Box 2 Bundle 11 Miniature 22); and a photograph of an engraving of him (Ref: CWM/LMS Missionary Portraits Box 6). SOAS also holds papers of James Hudson Taylor, including a postcard from Ralph Wardlaw Thompson to Howard Taylor concerning missionaries in Shanghai, 1909 (Ref: CIM/JHT Box 4 File 34); papers of James Trenchard Hardyman, including a typescript letter from P G Peake to Thompson, 1891 (Ref: PP MS 63 Box 58 file 102), and undated information on Thompson (Ref: PP MS 63 Box 58 File 104).