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Thomson, John Boden and Elizabeth

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 MS 380311
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Thomson, John Boden and Elizabeth
Date(s): Created 1866-1906
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 2 boxes
Name of creator(s): Thomson | John Boden | 1841-1878 | missionary
Thomson | Elizabeth | fl 1869-1880 | née Edwards | missionary


Administrative/Biographical history:

John Boden Thomson was born on 14 April 1841 at Kirkpatrick, Kirkcudbrightshire. He studied at Western College and Highgate Missionary College. He married Elizabeth Edwards in 1869. In the same year he was appointed to Matabeleland with the London Missionary Society. He was ordained on June 17 at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Thomson and his wife sailed on 9 August 1869, and arrived at Inyati, Matabeleland on 29 April 1870. Thomson was initially posted to the Matabele Mission, where Robert Moffat, William Sykes and Thomas Morgan Thomas were already based. He was to replace Thomas, who was due to return to England. During his service in Matabeleland, Thomson was able to negotiate the grant of a valley 50 miles from Inyati with the Matabele Chief, Lobengula. The site was to form the basis of the new Hope Fountain Mission - a difficult station, which was to be destroyed twice through local conflict before the end of the nineteenth century.

In 1876, Thomson was recalled to England to discuss the possibility of establishing a new Mission at Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika. Together with Roger Price, he was appointed leader of the Central Africa Mission to Ujiji. Leaving his family in England, he sailed for Zanzibar on 6 May 1877. The party, including Thomson, Roger Price, Elbert Sellis Clarke, Edward Coode Hore, Arthur William Dodgshun and Walter Hutley, left Zanzibar for the Ujiji on 21 July 1877. The expedition was beset by difficulties. To travel across Central Africa with ox-drawn wagons proved impracticable, and after deliberation the Mission members decided that their original objective of reaching Ujiji without establishing intermediate stations was over ambitious. Price was dispatched to England to consult with the Directors of the London Missionary Society. The remaining members decided to press on to Ujiji. Clarke withdrew from the Mission in January 1878. When Price failed to return from England, Thomson was appointed overall leader of the expedition (February 1878). The party set out from Kirasa on 29 May 1878. Thomson's group arrived in Ujiji on 23 August 1878. Dodgshun's group failed to reach Ujiji until 27 March 1879, Dodgshun dying seven days after his arrival. Thomson himself died suddenly of a fever on 22 September 1878.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, 1866-1906, of and about John Boden Thomson and his wife Elizabeth, comprising letters, documents and press cuttings, relating to his education, work in Matabeleland and the Ujiji Mission.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The material has been arranged into the following sections: education in England; work among the Matabele people; letters and papers relating to the Ujiji Mission; and miscellaneous items. Material has been arranged in chronological order within each section.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Unpublished handlist.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Purchased in 1981.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the London Missionary Society (Ref: CWM/LMS).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
15 May 2000

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