The first edition of this book was published in December 1898. The second edition followed in February 1899. I have a very good copy of the second edition. So over 120 years this book was published. It seems that both the first and second edition each had 2000 copies.

Who wrote this book? On the title page I read that Edward Francis Russel edited this book. What is the story behind it? He started work on writing this book, but due to all his other activities he could not finish the job. He wrote the first chapter and was left with the remaining part for which he had done already some work. From Russel we now turn to G.W., this is Miss Gertrude Ward, who worked as a Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) nurse at Magila, in the diocese of Zanzibar. During her leave she was asked by Russell to write the book and that is what she did. In the book we find many parts of letters and reports written by Smythies himself. In a way three people have worked on the book, but the main task was done by Miss Ward.     

Chares Alan was born in London (UK) on August 6, 1844. His father, who was a pastor, died when Charles was still very young. His mother Elisabeth married for the second time when Charles was about 14 years young. He went to Trinity College (Cambridge) for studies and 5 years later he moved to Theological College Cuddesdon. On February 25, 1884 he arrived at the island of Zanzibar, the seat of the diocese of Zanzibar. The diocese was large, very large, reaching up till Lake Nyasa, the original target area for the UMCA.

The structure of the book follow a chronological order. Year by year we follow the bishop in his work in the extensive field of work, till his death in 1894 on board a French vessel. Ruight fromn the start Smythies made it clear that he was not the cleric hidden in an ivory tower. He went for long walk through his diocese, on Zanzibar and on the mainland. In this way he got to know many churchworkers, teachers, other christians and chiefs. This is what he kept doing for the years as bishop at Zanzibar. In 1885 he reached the shores of Lake Nyasa. For many months on end he was on the road, moving from place to place. It was a time of expansion of the work. He pleaded with the Home Office of the UMCA for more funding to finance this work.

During his time as bishop he was confronted with the rising German colonial power. Dr. Carl Peters travelled through areas that were part of the diocese. It lead to the formation of the German East Africa Company, that made many land claims. As soon as Smythies heard about the German activities he wrote a letter to the British newspaper about these new developments. The German activities led to an Arab rising against the German power, in the end only places like Bagamoyo and Dar es Salam stayed under German power. The bishop, in full consent with his clergy, decided not to withdraw his clergy and other workers from the areas where violent clashes took place. The bishop was committed to the local churches and other people with whom the Mission had worked for many years. Next to that the bishop was of the opinion that the mission of the church was not a project, that could be limited to British borders. In 1890 an agreement was made between the German and the British government. One of the results was that Zanzibar an the area north of Mombasa stayed British. 

The year 1889 was an important year for the British decided to start the Nyasaland Protectorate. Much of the area was (used to be) under the authority of the Sultan of Zanzibar. In the very same year Henry Morton Stanley arrived at Zanzibar finishing his Emin Pasha Relief Expedition.

One of the things that was important for Smythies was the training of a local clergy. This was not something new within the circles of the UMCA, but the bishop was very keen in improving this training. On January 25, 1890 Cecil Majaliwa was ordained as the first local priest. For the training Smythies wanted to have a proper education comparable to the theological training in the UK. For a christian influence in society Smythies put a stop to creating christian villages, as had been done with freed slaves. 

The expansion of the work in the diocese of Zanzibar led to the division of the diocese. Smythies stayed in Zanzibar and Hornby was the new bishop for the Diocese Nyasa. In this period of creating a new diocese David Susi passed away. He had worked with David Livingstone and travelled with others to Zanzibar with the corpse and property of Livingstone. 

In later years the health of Smythies deteriorated. Finally he stayed for three weeks in a hospital on Zanzibar and than it was decided to transport him to a healthier clime. On the way he passed away and found a seamans’s grave.    

Under the heading Conclusions, several people shared their memories of Smythies. followed by Appendix with speeches and letters by Smythies. 

Gertrude Ward (Edward Francis Russell) – The life of Charles Alan Smythies. Bishop of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa  – 1898

Charles Alan Smythies titel pagina



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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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