An evaluation of the work of archdeacon William Percival Johnson in Nyasaland (1876-1928)

  • Beryl Brough

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This submission, by an examination of the life and work of William Percival Johnson, who served with the Universities Mission to Central Africa, in Nyasaland, 1876-1928, tests the thesis of Professor Knorr that the missionary movement of the 19th century was an agency for the spread of the European imperialism.

    It argues that priests and lay persons who served in Central Africa, with the Universities Mission, became part of an organisation whose conduct towards the country it served was very different from those of other missionary organisations.

    The length of Johnson's service makes possible a study of missionary activity in Nyasaland over a long period. During this half century the politics and economy of the African continent changed dramatically, with the arrival of the European colonial powers. It will be shown that the life of Johnson provided a datum line by which to measure the true worth of one small Christian mission to one, relatively small, African state.

    This submission will show that in Nyasaland, the Universities Mission, as represented by William Percival Johnson, had no intention of introducing European commercialism to the people. On the contrary, he and the Mission devoted themselves to the establishment of an African Christian Church, served by African priests and laity. To this end, Johnson translated the Holy Scriptures into the many native languages of the region. He established an education system, which, from the very beginning, trained and used native teachers.

    His understanding and admiration of the African culture is well documented in his writings, wherein he attempted to convey to European readers the facts of African life, and to record, for the Nyasa people, their native stories and legends.

    Whilst following the main thesis, it will also consider whether the response of the Anglican Church of St. Elvan, in Aberdare, to the missionary movement, was typical of that of the late 19th Century Welsh Anglican Church, as a whole.
    Date of AwardOct 1997
    Original languageEnglish

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