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Freeman, Thomas Birch

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 MMS/Special Series/Biographical/West Africa/FBN 4-7 (Boxes 594-597)
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Freeman, Thomas Birch
Date(s): 1837-1928
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 4 boxes
Name of creator(s): Freeman | Thomas Birch | 1809-1890 | missionary


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born at Twyford, Hampshire, England, son of an English mother and a freed African slave, Thomas Freeman, 1809; joined the Methodists; moved to Ipswich and became a preacher; head gardener on a Suffolk estate, but lost his position owing to his Methodist activism; accepted by the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, 1837; sailed to the Gold Coast, west Africa, 1837-1838; missionary on the Cape Coast (where an indigenous Methodist church had been tenuously supported by a succession of English missionaries), 1838-1857; visited Kusami, the Ashanti capital; married, for the second time, Lucinda Cowan (d 1841) at Bedminster, Somerset, 1840; visited England to appeal for funds and recruits, 1841; the publication of his journals made him a celebrity; his pioneering work in founding many mission stations and chapels in the area underpinned later Methodist success in Ghana, western Nigeria, and Benin; married for the third time, 1854; financial controversy and other difficulties caused him to retire from missionary work, 1857; civil commandant of Accra, 1857-1860; remained in the Gold Coast, farming, writing, and preaching; returned as a missionary, to Anamabu, west Africa, 1873-1879; Accra, 1879-1886; retired and settled at Accra, 1886; died, 1890. Publication: Journal of Various Visits to the Kingdoms of Ashanti, Aku and Dahomi ... with an historical introduction by the Rev J Beecham (2nd edition, 1844); Missionary Enterprise No Fiction (1871), a semi-autobiographical novel [by Thomas Birch Freeman].


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, 1837-1928, of and relating to Thomas Birch Freeman, comprising journals, 1837-1845, including his life and work in Africa; a manuscript account of a journey from Badagry to Dahomey, 1842-1843, perhaps prepared for publication, with a letter, 1843, from George Maclean concerning the manuscript; letterbooks, 1848-1857, containing copy letters from Freeman; Freeman's manuscript history of the rise and progress of Wesleyan missions in the Gold Coast to 1838 [after 1838], with later, undated manuscript transcript; typed transcript [20th century], lacking chapters I-II, of Freeman's reminiscences [1884] of the Gold and Slave Coasts, including his extensive travels in the region, and microfilm negative of the typescript; typed transcript [20th century] of two letters to Annie Goulstone (1849); copy certificate, 1928, recording Freeman's marriage to Lucinda Cowan (1840).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

Unrestricted, but only to be viewed on microfiche.

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 Methodist Missionary Society and form part of the special series of biographical papers of individual missionaries.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited on permanent loan with the records of the Methodist Missionary Society from 1978.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds the records of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (Ref: MMS/WMMS), including letters from individual missionaries, among them Freeman (Ref: MMS/WMMS West Africa Correspondence). SOAS also holds a transcript of a letter from Freeman to the Wesleyan missionary Robert Brooking, 1855, describing the work of the Cape Coast mission (Ref: MS 380587).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed Gerald H Anderson (1998); Alphabetical Arrangement of Wesleyan Methodist Ministers (1847, 1888 editions); Wesleyan Methodist Church Minutes of Conference (1891), pp 66-7; 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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