John Theodosius Van Der Kemp Papers

Scope and Content

Papers, 1573, 1763-1932, of and relating to John Theodosius Van Der Kemp, comprising pages from his diary, 1763-1791; list of patients in a Dutch military hospital, 1793-1794; miscellaneous papers, 1801-1804; correspondence, 1802-1811, the subjects including missionaries, supplies, travel, and colonial policy and administration; various undated manuscripts in his hand, including medical notes and notes for sermons; his Bible (1573), comprising the Old Testament in Hebrew and New Testament in Greek; papers relating to his family, 1816-1817, 1849, including financial affairs; miscellaneous papers on Van Der Kemp and Bethelsdorp, 1826 and undated; a manuscript on the conversion and call of Van Der Kemp to missionary work and his voyage to the Cape [early 19th century]; manuscript copy of his autobiography, apparently translated by F G Hooper, 1820; a manuscript précis and extracts from his autobiography [early 19th century]; correspondence and papers, 1921-1932 and undated, on Van Der Kemp, relating especially to A D Martin’s biography Doctor Vanderkemp, and including press cuttings and a photograph of his grave.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in Rotterdam (Netherlands), 1747; served as an army officer; studied medicine at Leyden and Edinburgh; received his degree, MD, University of Edinburgh, 1782; practised as a physician in Zealand, 1782-1795; his conversion followed the drowning of his wife and only child in a boating accident, 1791; came into contact with the Moravian Brethren at Zeist and heard of the newly-founded London Missionary Society (LMS); appointed LMS missionary to South Africa and ordained in London, 1797; helped to found the Netherlands Missionary Society; embarked for South Africa, 1798; arrived in Cape Town, 1799; ministered among the Xhosa for two years; to Graaff Reinet, 1801; ministered to the Khoikhoi (Hottentots); moved with the first Khoikhoi congregation to Botha’s Farm, near Algoa Bay, 1802; founded a mission station at Bethelsdorp, 1803; his marriage to a young Malagasy convert "who he had redeemed from slavery", named Sara Janse, was considered shocking, 1807; composed a hymn celebrating the abolition of the slave trade, 1807; also wrote a commentary on Romans xiii-xvi and a midwifery textbook for use at Bethelsdorp; an opponent of slavery and advocate of the rights of the indigenous population, Van Der Kemp was unpopular with the majority of Europeans in the Cape Colony; planned to found a mission in Madagascar but died at Cape Town while carrying out the arrangements, 1811; a pioneer of LMS work in South Africa, he was to have become superintendent of its missions there.

See also:

John Theodosius Van Der Kemp, Principles of the Word of God for the Hottentot Mission (1804).

John Theodosius Van Der Kemp, Memoirs of the Rev J T Vanderkemp MD (1813).

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

Unpublished handlist; detailed typescript list stored with the material.

Archivist's Note

Compiled using:

Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. by Gerald H. Anderson (Cambridge: William B. Erdmans, 1998).

A Register of Missionaries, Deputations etc from 1796-1923, ed. by James Sibree (London: London Missionary Society, 1923).

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. Some of Van Der Kemp’s papers were destroyed by fire before 1855. At that date a selection of the surviving papers passed from his widow to the Rev William Ellis (1794-1872) of the LMS. Others were acquired later.

Related Material

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the London Missionary Society (Ref: CWM/LMS), including correspondence of J T Van Der Kemp before he went to South Africa (Ref: CWM/LMS Europe Incoming Correspondence); his journal, 1798-1799, from his voyage on board the convict ship, the Hillsborough (bound for Botany Bay), from Portsmouth to Cape Town via Madeira and the Canary Islands (Ref: CWM/LMS South Africa Journals Box 1 File 1); a print, an engraving, and a photograph of a painting of J T Van Der Kemp (Ref: CWM/LMS Missionary Portraits Box 6).