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The SUM in Nigeria, The Cameroons, Chad, Sudan and Other African Territories

Part 3: Newsletters, 1940-1989, Publications and Annual Reports, 1908-1979

The Archive of the Sudan United Mission (SUM), held at the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, New College, University of Edinburgh, is an important resource for the study of missionary work, education, medical work, evangelism, the emergence of native churches and the growth of nationalist sentiment in Africa in the twentieth century.

Part 3: consists of three distinct sections:

Newsletters, 1940-1989, providing SUM home news and information on missions in Northern Nigeria and Sudan, covering a wide range of different topics, from education to medical work (the two central themes of SUM work) to the problems of civil war, the destruction of property and guerrilla activity, or the establishment of new training centres, the progress of welfare initiatives and the creation of native churches. These newsletters give researchers the opportunity to discover more about the workings of the SUM both at home and abroad.

Publications, comprising books, pamphlets and a set of papers in the archive entitled “History”. These include various volumes documenting the history and work of the SUM and its missionaries: for example The Bridge Builder (a biography of W M Bristow), Dawn over Gwoza (a description of the medical work in Gwoza), Go Ye and Cleanse (a record of work carried out among lepers), Go Ye and Teach (the story of Gindiri Training School in Nigeria), A Growing Church (the growth of the SUM), Instead of the Thorn (the story of the Faith and Farm project), Magic or Medicine (a history of Vom Hospital). There are descriptions of the life and customs of local tribes in Northern Nigeria and Sudan, for instance The Birom, Aflame for God (about a cannibal tribe). There are short stories for children about SUM missionaries, their work and various indigenous tribes, for example Glimpses of the Sudan, A Hunter at Heart, and Joel.

The set of papers collated as “History” includes details on the civil war in Nigeria, the diaries and notebooks of H G Farrant, notes on the Freed Slaves Home, maps, SUM Golden Jubilee papers and short missionary memoirs. An item of great interest is J Lowry Maxwell’s diary for the early years of the SUM (the remainder of his diaries can be found at Rhodes House Library in Oxford). The extracts below give an idea of the fascinating content to be found in Maxwell’s diary, written in a very easy informal style and describing some of his first experiences in Nigeria:

“Tuesday, 20 November 1906
Last night I woke up with a touch of a chill & fever in consequence. I seem to have got over it though. An insolent hyena came up quite close to where we were lying, and emitted a couple of yells…. Found that white ants had got inside my big box…. We just shifted the tent along…. After we got settled a few yards back in the ground where the grass had been burn,. I had breakfast….

Monday, 28 January 1907
This morning Hoover Guinter & I put up the stove… Eh! But it was jolly hot working on that there stove I tell you, I took 10 grams of quinine when I came in…
A Munshi chief came to see me today. He was well dressed, wearing a large robe and a regular Hausa turban. He had with him an interpreter who could speak Hausa. He explained to me that he was one of the Donga dependencies and that his town was at the Zunzurfa river…”

Annual Reports which are sub-divided into four different categories of material:

- Annual Bound Reports and Reviews, 1908-1916. These cover numerous topics
such as the activities of individual missionaries, details of different local tribes,
reports on other SUM branches, descriptions of festivals, education problems in
Nigeria and Sudan, tours of mission stations, news on the Freed Slaves Home, notes on itinerating tours by missionaries, an article on the menace of Islam by Dr Kumm,
reports on conferences, maps, illustrations and photographs of missionaries and
natives, financial statistics, news on the SUM hospitals and medical work.

- SUM Annual Branch Reports, 1940-1979, from Britain, Australia and
New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Norway, South Africa and Switzerland.
The following extract, describing nationalist sentiment in Nigeria, is taken from the
Annual Report for the British Branch, 1949:

“… Gindiri and Numan education departments are growing tremendously… For the person in charge of Gindiri a small car will be needed (or a good pair of legs) to
enable him to make the rounds of all the School’s departments. Many European
teachers have been added… Nigeria is full of nationalism and a clamouring for
independence. This is not wrong but is natural, if only the changes can come about
with a peaceful revolution and not with a lot of unchristian harsh feelings against
mission benefactors…”

- Annual and Monthly Station Reports and Early Histories
Included are reports on schools and hospitals as well as the mission stations. The
following is taken from the report for the mission station at Vom, May 1961:

“There has been an outbreak of petty thieving in the Compound…. The Chief was
most helpful in taking up the matter… An effort is evidently being made to meet our wishes with regard to the Pig Farm, sited by the Townspeople right in front of the Nursing Home, and we are hopeful for a reconciliation here. The people and the Chief have proved themselves willing to see the point…”

- Gwoza Log Books, 1956-1972
These describe SUM activities in the Gwoza region of Nigeria where SUM founded a hospital.

The SUM archival material spans the period 1904-1991 and allows researchers to study issues such as:

• SUM activities in Northern Nigeria and the inter-action of missionaries with the Middle Belt Movement.
• The crucial role of the hospitals and leper colonies in Nigeria, bringing medical advances to the region and providing worthwhile jobs for Africans in Nigeria.
• The importance of education, new schools and training colleges in both Nigeria and the Sudan.
• The tremendous political and social changes in Africa which gathered momentum after 1920, culminating in independence movements and a vibrant Pan-Africanism.
• SUM’s commitment prior to 1960 to the establishment of Native African Churches and its changing role once this had been achieved.

In 1989 the SUM Fellowship in the UK changed its name to Action Partners. Bawtry Hall in Doncaster, South Yorkshire was purchased to be a headquarters and training centre for World Mission.

Please see our Digital Guide for more information on the following:

  • Early developments of the Sudan United Mission
  • Northern Nigeria
  • The different tribes of Northern Nigeria
  • Nationalism in Nigeria
  • Post-Independence Politics and Civil War in Nigeria
  • Sudan
  • Other branches and related papers

Nature and Scope of the Microfilm Project

The microfilm publication of the SUM Archive has been divided into the following parts:

Part 1: Manuscript Papers, 1898-1960
Part 2: The Lightbearer, 1905-1991
Part 3: Newsletters, 1940-1989, Publications and Annual Reports, 1908-1979
Part 4: Lantern Slides, Slides and Photographs
Part 5: Publications in Hausa

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