Africa Odds: John Philip Papers

Archive Unit

Scope and Content

Papers, 1817-1951, of and relating to John Philip, comprising correspondence and papers, 1817-1849, including manuscripts and pamphlets, on his call to South Africa and the reluctance of his Aberdeen congregation that he should leave; the situation in South Africa and government policy, leading to the writing of his Researches; the ensuing court case (against William Mackay); the Wesleyan intrusion in Griqualand; also including editions of South African newspapers, 1824; letters from Robert Moffat concerning the mission station at Kuruman, 1845; manuscript papers by Philip concerning South Africa and the life of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton sent to Sir Edward Buxton, 1846; papers concerning Philip and South Africa, 1910-1951, including correspondence and press cuttings, some relating to William Miller Macmillan’s The Cape colour question: a historical survey (Faber and Gwyer, 1927). The subjects include missionary activities and journeys, settlement in the region, race relations, slavery, and colonial policy.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Philip was born in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland, 1775; apprenticed to a linen manufacturer in Leven; clerk in Dundee, 1794-1797; converted in the Haldane revival; studied at Hoxton Theological College for three years and entered the Congregational ministry; assistant in Newbury, Berkshire; minister at the first Scottish Congregational chapel in Aberdeen, 1804; married Jane Ross (d 1847), 1809; the work of the London Missionary Society (LMS) in South Africa was threatened with closure by the British authorities and as an LMS director went on a deputation, with the Rev John Campbell, to investigate, 1818; arrived in Cape Town, 1819; prevented by a war from travelling beyond the colony; found the mission stations neglected and colonial opinion against the missionaries' benign relations with indigenous people; believed the population to be oppressed by the settlers; appointed to remain in South Africa as LMS superintendent, 1820; his wife, Jane, was the de facto LMS administrative secretary there; Doctor of Divinity, Princetown College, New Jersey, USA, 1820; travelled extensively to inspect mission stations within and beyond the colony and to collect evidence supporting his theories, 1820-1826; pastor of the new Union chapel in Cape Town, 1822; campaigned for civil rights for the 'Cape Coloured' people, who formed a number of LMS congregations, 1823; visited Britain to lobby for their civil rights, 1826; the campaign achieved success and, following Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton's motion in the House of Commons, the Cape government was ordered to implement Philip’s recommendations, 1828; Philip hoped that the Christian ‘mini-state’ the Griqua people, aided by the LMS, had formed beyond the Cape Colony frontier would become a model for other indigenous peoples; while in Europe, solicited the Paris Evangelical Mission Society and the Rhenish Missionary Society to begin work in South Africa; corresponded with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to persuade them to come; advocated the idea that only Africans could convert Africa ('native agency'); returned to Africa to increased unpopularity from the white population, 1829; a libel suit by William Mackay, one of the officials accused by Philip in his Researches in South Africa, resulted in a unanimous verdict for Mackay, 1830; visited stations within and beyond the colony, 1832-1833; accompanied 'Coloured' and Xhosa Christians to London to give evidence before a parliamentary committee and rouse public opinion against the Cape government, 1836; the committee’s report supported his views, but his insistence that much of the responsibility for the war lay with the British authorities and white colonists brought hostility from much of the white population in the Cape, 1837; returned to South Africa, 1837-1838; travelled extensively to promote his scheme for establishment of independent states north and east of the colony, 1839, 1842; following a war (1846) Philip withdrew from public affairs, 1849; retired to Hankey; died, 1851; admired by the 'Coloured', Griqua, Sotho and Xhosa Peoples, he was buried in the 'Coloured' graveyard of a 'Coloured' township.

See also:

John Philip, Researches in South Africa, illustrating the civil, moral and religious condition of the Native Tribes 2 vols (London: James Duncan, 1828).

Conditions Governing Access


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

Deatiled list for the John Philips papers (list ref. A6), available for consultation in the Special Collections Reading Room, SOAS Library.

Archivist's Note


Custodial History

The papers were accumulated by the London Missionary Society and form part of the special series of papers which fall outside the Home and Regional series.