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Smith, Edwin

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 MMS/Special Series/Biographical/Central Africa/FBN 13-14 & MMS Boxes 611B-C
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Smith, Edwin
Date(s): 1877-1949
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 5 boxes
Name of creator(s): Smith | Edwin William | 1876-1957 | missionary, anthropologist and linguist


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born at Aliwal North, Cape Colony, 7th September 1876; son of the Rev John Smith (1840-1915) and his second wife Fanny Jeary (married 1874), Primitive Methodist missionaries; studied at Elmfield College, York; accepted for the ministry, 1897; Primitive Methodist missionary in Basutoland [Lesotho], South Africa, 1898-1902; married Julia Anne (née Fitch), 3rd October 1899; joined the mission to the Baila-Batonga in northern Rhodesia [Zambia], 1902; at Nanzela, 1902-1908; at Mexborough, 1908-1909; pioneered the mission at Kasenga, 1909-1915; reduced the Ila language to written form, made a grammar and dictionary, and translated most of the New Testament; returned to England, 1915; military chaplain in France, 1915-1916; seconded to the British and Foreign Bible Society, 1916-1939; initially its secretary in Rome, Italy; later at the Society's headquarters giving editorial supervision to Scripture translations in many languages; editorial superintendent, 1933-1939; a prominent anthropologist and pioneer of the study of indigenous African religious beliefs; founder member of the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures (later the International African Institute), 1926; President of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 1933-1935; retired from the church, 1939; taught in north America, at the Kennedy School of Missions, Hartford Seminary, and at Fisk University, 1939-1944; editor of Africa, journal of the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures, 1945-1948; honorary Doctor of Divinity from University of Winnipeg, c1937; honorary Doctor of Divinity, University of Toronto, 1942; died at Deal, Kent, 1957. Publications: works on the Ila language and people, anthropological works, works relating to inter-racial relations, and research on missionary history and biography, including: Handbook of the Ila Language (1907); with A M Dale, The Ila-speaking Peoples of Northern Rhodesia (1920); Robert Moffat (1925); The Golden Stool (1926); The Secret of the African (1929); Aggrey of Africa (1929); African Belief and Christian Faith (1936); The Mabilles of Basutoland (1939); The Life and Times of Daniel Lindley (1947); edited African Ideas of God (1950); biography of Roger Price, Great Lion of Bechuanaland (1957).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers, 1877-1949, of Edwin Smith, comprising Smith's typescript and manuscript translations from religious texts into the Ila language, 1905-c1915, manuscript account of Ila, 1902, and manuscript account of Primitive Methodist missions in Africa, c1929; Smith's general official correspondence files, 1901-1913, the subjects including mission activities and finance; press cuttings, notes, and manuscript by Smith on the Baila-Batonga mission, 1890s-1900s; press cuttings on African, missionary, and Methodist affairs, 1897-1907, Smith's journal, 1898-1901, notes, typescripts and printed material, 1877-1924 and undated, by Smith and others on Ila and missionary work, and two manuscripts in Afrikaans, 1877 and undated (copy letters of the Rev John Smith, 1885-1886); undated photographs of Aliwal North, Basutoland, Nanzela and Kasenga missions (Ref: Box 611B); a letter from Smith in Aliwal North to his mother, 1900 (Ref: Box 611C/1); diary and pamphlet concerning Smith's journey to Nanzela, 1909 (Ref: Box 611C/2); Smith's diaries of trips to Egypt, Palestine, the Sudan, USA, Canada, and South Africa, 1929-1949 (Ref: Box 611C/3).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, Ila, Afrikaans

System of arrangement:


Conditions governing access:

Unrestricted, but only to be viewed on microfiche where copies exist (MMS/Special Series/Biographical/Central Africa/FBN 13-14). Where copies do not exist (Boxes 611B-611C), researchers should request original material.

Conditions governing reproduction:

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

Finding aids:

Unpublished handlist to item level.

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, including an additional deposit (Boxes 611B-C) made by Smith's grandson in 1997.

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 Primitive Methodist Missionary Society (Ref: MMS/PMMS), including files relating to Smith's work, 1898-1924, largely comprising letters from Smith relating to his time as a missionary in Africa (including MMS/PMMS/Correspondence/South and Central Africa/FBN 16-17). Reports written by Smith may also be extant within (MMS/PMMS/Reports/Quarterly/FBN 3-4).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: Dictionary of National Biography; Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed Gerald H Anderson (1998); Alphabetical Arrangement of Wesleyan Methodist Ministers (1947); Wesleyan Methodist Church Minutes of Conference (1958), p 182; 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:
Mar 2002

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