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Collection Level Description: Papers of John Houldsworth Oldham, D.D.

Reference: MSS. Afr. s. 1829
Title: Papers of John Houldsworth Oldham, D.D.
Dates of Creation: [1918-1958]
Extent: 11 boxes

Language of Material: English

Administrative/Biographical History

Joseph Oldham (1874-1969) was born in Bombay and educated at the Edinburgh Academy and Trinity College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1897. He developed an interest in the student Christian movement and subsequently worked as Secretary of the Scottish YMCA in Lahore, India. After being invalided home three years later, he entered New College, Edinburgh in 1901, where he began a course of theological studies. Though he was never ordained, he studied missionary theory and practice until 1908 and was appointed Organizing Secretary for the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference in 1910. He was then retained as Secretary to the Edinburgh Continuation Committee, which continued the Conference's work.

In 1912 he became editor of the International Review of Missions (Edinburgh, s.d., 1912-) and for fifteen years travelled extensively, interesting himself in forced labour, the education of dependent peoples and relations between races. He found himself acting as mediator between settlers and Indians in Kenya and forged a friendship with Frederick Dealtry Lugard, Baron Lugard of Abinger with whom, after proposing the formation of the Advisory Committee on Native Education in tropical Africa, he collaborated in drafting a first policy statement on African education. He also organized the first conference between missionaries and colonial administrators on education in 1926 and visited educational institutions for negroes in the USA, where he established contacts which proved useful when he and Lugard later created the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures (of which Oldham was Administrative Director 1931-1938). Together, Oldham and Lugard encouraged research in anthropology and semantics, and provided fellowships for academics.

Oldham was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by Edinburgh University in 1931 and made Chairman of the Research Committee of the Universal Christian Council for Life and Work. In 1937 he organized the World Conference on Church, Community and State at Oxford, helped Archbishop Temple establish a world ecumenical movement, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oxford. His books include Christianity and the Race Problem (London, Student Christian Movement, 1924) and New Hope in Africa [On the aims of the Capricorn Africa Society] (London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1955).

Scope and Content

System of Arrangement

Oldham's own arrangement of his papers has been recreated as far as possible. Lists and analyses of the archive made at one time by Dame Margery Perham's research assistants are to be found in her papers.

Much of the material is related to the combined archive accumulated by the International Missionary Conference and the Congress of British Missionary Societies. Wherever it has been possible to trace a link with that archive, a note has been made in the handlist.

Administrative Information

Access Conditions

Bodleian reader's ticket required:

Reproduction Restrictions

No reproduction or publication of personal papers without permission. Contact the library in the first instance.

Further Information

Finding Aids

Listed as no. 820 in Manuscript Collections in Rhodes House Library Oxford, Accessions 1978-1994 (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1996). A handlist is also available in the library reading room.

Related Units of Description

File of correspondence between Oldham and Rowland Skeffington Hudson, mainly on matters relating to the Capricorn Africa Society, 1954-1956 (ref. MSS. Afr. s. 1381); papers of Frederick Dealtry Lugard, Baron Lugard of Abinger (ref. MSS. Brit. Emp. s. 30-99); papers of Dame Margery Freda Perham (ref. MSS. Perham); the library holds a copy of the report of the Commission on Closer Union of the Dependencies in Eastern and Central Africa (ref. 740.13 r. 2); the combined archive of related material accumulated by the International Missionary Conference and the Congress of British Missionary Societies is held by the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

Access Points

Oldham | Joseph Houldsworth | 1874-1969 | Missionary

Commission on Closer Union of the Dependencies in Eastern and Central Africa

Africa, East | History | 20th century

Africa | History | 20th century

Missions | Educational work

Education, colonial | Africa

Transformation from XML to HTML by Lawrence Mielniczuk
27 June 2011