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Taylor, William Ernest

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0102 MSS 20264, 41960-1, 47752-9, 47768-9, 47780, 47782, 54341, 54343, 198870, 373394
Held at: School of Oriental and African Studies
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Full title: Taylor, William Ernest
Date(s): c1810-c1899
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 19 files
Name of creator(s): Taylor | William Ernest | 1856-1927 | missionary and Swahili scholar


Administrative/Biographical history:

Born in Worcester, England, 1856; educated at King's School, Worcester; won a scholarship to Hertford College, Oxford; 3rd class in classical honour moderations, 1876; enrolled in the Medical Faculty, Edinburgh University, 1879-1880; did not complete his medical education; became a deacon, 1880; served the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in East Africa, 1880-1884; began to learn Swahili soon after his arrival and became acquainted with eminent Swahili scholars there; collected Swahili manuscripts, both poetry and prose; returned to East Africa as CMS missionary, 1885-1889; ordained priest, 1885; travelled extensively among the Giryama (north of Mombasa) and studied Giryama (a Bantu language closely related to Swahili); married Catherine Tesseyman (d 1959) in Hull, 1892; served again in East Africa, 1892-1896; returned to England, 1896; posted to Cairo, 1898-1900; sent to Khartoum as a chaplain, but returned on medical grounds a few months later, 1903; ended his connection with the CMS, 1904; subsequently held a succession of clerical appointments, the last at Halton Holgate, Lincolnshire; retained his interest in Swahili, examining for the War Office and translating for the Salvation Army; died at Bath, 1927. Publications include: African Aphorisms; or, Saws from Swahili-land (1891); Giryama Vocabulary and Collections (1891); The Groundwork of the Swahili Language (1898); contributed to Mrs F Burt's Swahili Grammar and Vocabulary (1910); contributed to C H Stigand's A Grammar of Dialectic Changes in the Kiswahili Language (1915); Ukumbosho wa Uongozi (Memorandum of Guidance for East African Field Officers) [1925]; translations of the Bible into Swahili and Giryama, published 1889-1909.


Scope and content/abstract:

Collected papers, c1810-c1899 (some undated), of the Rev William Ernest Taylor, including Swahili verses, proverbs, chronicles, stories, songs, hymns, religious texts, and vocabularies, and some of Taylor's own correspondence.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Swahili, also including some Giryama and Arabic. Mainly Arabic script, some Roman.

System of arrangement:

Some files contain more than one item.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

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

Finding aids:

Incomplete handlist. Cataloguing is in progress under the Swahili Manuscripts Project at the School of Oriental and African Studies.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Taylor's bequest of his linguistic books and manuscripts to the British Museum was declined, and his widow Catherine sold some printed books to the School of Oriental (later Oriental and African) Studies (SOAS), and Swahili notebooks and papers to William Hichens (whose collection subsequently passed to SOAS).

Immediate source of acquisition:

Various, including donation from Mrs E Hichens in 1945.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds other collections on Swahili and other African languages, including papers of J W T Allen (Ref: PP MS 20), William Hichens (various references), Alice Werner (Ref: MS 380393), and W H Whiteley (Ref: PP MS 42).

The records of the Church Missionary Society, including papers of W E Taylor, are held at Birmingham University Information Services, Special Collections Department.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project. Sources: P J L Frankl, 'W E Taylor (1856-1927): England's greatest Swahili scholar', AAP, lx (1999), pp 161-174; information from Annmarie Drury, Swahili Manuscripts Project, School of Oriental and African Studies; 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:
Jul 2002

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