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Thompson, Ralph Wardlaw

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 CWM/LMS Home Personal Boxes 2-3
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Thompson, Ralph Wardlaw
Date(s): 1746-1918
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 2 boxes
Name of creator(s): Thompson | Ralph Wardlaw | 1842-1916 | foreign secretary of the London Missionary Society
Wardlaw | family


Administrative/Biographical history:

Dr Ralph Wardlaw Thompson: 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: 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: 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.


Scope and content/abstract:

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.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Comprising family papers, and papers of Ralph Wardlaw Thompson.

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:

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.

Immediate source of acquisition:

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.

Allied Materials

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 General 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).

Correspondence of Thompson's grandfather Ralph Wardlaw is held at Dr Williams's Library, London (Ref: 494), and at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections (Ref: Gen 863).

Publication note:

Description Notes

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.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Feb 2002

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