Original Research

The trivial round, the common task: minutes of the Missionary Board of the Glasgow Missionary Society (1838-1843)

J. S. Ross
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 43, No 3 | a237 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v43i3.237 | © 2009 J. S. Ross | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 26 July 2009 | Published: 26 July 2009

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J. S. Ross, Department of Church History and Missiology, Dumisani Theological Institute, South Africa

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This article seeks to bring to attention a hitherto little-known account of missionary life among the Xhosa people in the Cape Colony during the period 1838-1843 as contained in “The minute book of the Missionary Board of the Glasgow Missionary Society, adhering to the principles of the Church of Scotland, in Caffraria, and in the neighbouring Colony” (MBGMS). The Missionary Board was responsible for providing adequate material infrastructure and logistical support to enable the accomplishment of the aspirations of the Society. The author argues that such mundane work is often neglected in modern missiological historiography, which focuses rather on the more “‘spiritual” aspects of mission work. The historiographic approach adopted in this article is that of modern narrative history. By focusing on some of the themes, trends and struc- tures presenting themselves in the record, the MBGMS is permitted to speak for itself with relatively little retrospective interpretation. It is demonstrated that the Board made an important contribution to the achievement of the goals of the Glasgow Missionary Society, as seen in the rise of a Xhosa middle class and the emergence of a significant group of black intellectuals, whose voice and influence are being recovered after years of enforced neglect.


Cape Colony; Glasgow Missionary Society; Minute Book; Missionary Logistics; Xhosa Intellectuals


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