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A study of missionary settlement and the spread of Christianity in southern Africa during the period 1800 - 1925, including a piece on the role of missionaries, a list of mission stations, and case studies of individual mission stations.

This material was researched and prepared by Franco Frescura to be published in book form. SAHO has procured the rights to publish this material on the website.

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This book has its origins in research I was conducting in 1982 in the field of the indigenous vernacular architecture of southern Africa. At that stage I was researching the links between the so-called “civilizing” mission of white European and North American religious zealots, and the changes which had begun to become manifest in the local built environment as early as the 1860s. By the 1920s other, and equally overt, influences had also begun to emerge. The mines at Kimberley and on the Witwatersrand, migrant employment in urban areas, the educational curriculae of Missionary Trade Schools, and the training given on an ad hoc basis by white farmers to their laborers, were beginning to create a fabric of competing influences which made it easy for racially-motivated detractors of Black culture to dismiss the achievements of rural builders as the product of a “civilizing” and “superior” white presence. It is not within the scope of this book to discuss the merits or otherwise of such claims. Suffice it to say that the data contained in this publication went a long way towards exposing many such fallacies.

Originally the book began as a simple typed listing of some 1030 mission stations established by some 60 missionary societies over a period of 125 years. Its purpose was to show, by means of five maps set at 25-year intervals, the spreading geographical presence of missionaries over southern Africa. These have been included in this book and, as will be seen, their intent was primarily graphic. Their scope was therefore somewhat limited, as mission stations were merely indicated by means of dots, with no identification as to their place name or missionary society affiliation.

This listing was then reproduced by the Department of Architecture, at the University of the Witwatersrand, as a small publication which, much to everyone’s surprise, went to four separate printings and sold over 600 copies (Frescura 1982). Since that time much additional information has come to hand, including an unpublished manuscript of a Gazetteer of mission stations in the Eastern Cape (Skead 1980), as well as the various accounts provided by travelers into the southern African hinterland during the nineteenth century. As a result the scope of the original manuscript has been extended beyond its original scope, and can now probably be read as a collected account of missionary efforts in southern Africa at a time when the regions social, economic and political life was being restructured by colonial forces.

Grateful thanks are extended to Sue Tilley, Beth Strachan and Anna Cunningham, of the Africana Library, University of the Witwatersrand, who were gleeful partners in seeking out dusty and long-forgotten volumes; Denver Webb, formerly Historical Curator at the Kaffrarian Museum, King William’s Town, who discovered the Skead manuscript; and Rosmary Wilkinson, of Johannesburg, and Cleopatra Mda, of Port Elizabeth, who were responsible for most of the typing.

Franco Frescura
Durban, November 2003