South Africa in records from colonial missionaries, 1819-1900

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South African archives of the USPG

South African archives of the USPG

Sunday 1st morning, service well attended, afternoon Kafir service, all in town present 14. Chiefly women, subject continuation of history of Moses. Evening white service as usual
Joseph Barker's Diary, Mar 1857Natal; Natal, C/AFS/6; img 16

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Accounts of South Africa from the first missonaries in the 1820s through to 1900

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In South Africa, the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel began its labours at the Cape in 1821, the western division being occupied in that year and the eastern division in 1830. The society's work made a limited impact until the arrival of Robert Gray (consecrated Bishop of Capetown in 1847), under whom, from 1847 to 1872, and subsequently, the work spread at an unprecedented rate. Natal was occupied in 1849, Kaffraria in 1855, and Zululand in 1859. During the period 1752-1906 the Society expended £1,092,009 and employed 668 ordained missionaries in Africa. This collection from the Archives of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, dates from their earliest connection with South Africa. Since January 1965 the USPG continues the work previously done by the SPG (incorporated 1701) and UMCA, the Universities' Mission to Central Africa, founded in 1857 in response to Livingstone's challenge at Cambridge. Both are Anglican societies. As the USPG is a church society, their records are arranged by dioceses, as this is the administrative and geographical unit with which they dealt. The original MSS are mainly in bound volumes and these fall into two series. Series D contains all of the letters written to the SPG, mainly by the bishop and some missionaries, but also by other persons such as administrators. Series E contains the Annual Reports, which each missionary was expected to send home about the area and his work there. After the earliest years one, or sometimes two, annual volumes are required to contain African records in each series. Series D begins in 1850, Series E in 1856, but earlier papers have been filmed, either from series E/Pre/J or from the various boxes of unbound letters that comprise C/AFS. The letter C distinguishes all unbound papers, and AFS denotes 'Africa South'. The numbering of the volumes was abandoned after vol. 95 of 1895 in D, and vol. 45 of 1890 in E. Thereafter reference is by year, e.g. D. 1896. Description derived from an Introduction by Isobel Pridmore of the USPG and 'The Churchman's Missionary Atlas' p.32;" see catalogue listing to view these items.


South Africa in records from colonial missionaries, 1819-1900...

Containing 37,903 pages belonging to 341 documents housed in 5 volumes...

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Containing both bound correspondence and loose papers, these items are chiefly concerned with the movements of people and money. Correspondence...


These items contain more narrative accounts than the Capetown records; however, the concern over obtaining required funds is very similar....


Combines narrative accounts and correspondence with official paperwork. Requests for funds are a key feature, as are statistical returns. These...

St Johns - Kaffraria

These records cover the expansion of the dioceses and some implications such as boundary adjustment; the statistical component also provides...


  • These records are divided by location; the areas they covered were located near to the coast, from Cape Town to Zululand between 1819 and 1900.
  • The papers for Zululand reveal some of the challenges facing missionaries in South Africa. These records describe the local chiefs having some doubts about the strangers trying to convert them.
  • Papers covering Natal and Grahamstown provide information about missionaries' moves between dioceses and financial concerns, with some details of their progress.
  • Capetown's records focus on movements of people and money, as well as how respectable missionaries were. They also cover how many natives the missionaries could convince to attend church.
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