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Papers of John Houldsworth Oldham, D.D.


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  1. Correspondence, newspaper cuttings, memoranda, reports, etc.relating to Oldham's research into East Africa, 1924-1938
  2. Correspondence, etc. relating to the Commission on Closer Union of theDependencies in Eastern and Central Africa (Hilton Young Commission), 1922-1933
  3. Correspondence with African governors and officials, 1924-1935
  4. Correspondence, memoranda, journals, newspaper cuttings, etc. relatingto Africa in general, 1922-1937
  5. Reports on African labour, rural conditions and education, [1924-1936]
  6. Minutes, memoranda, notes, correspondence, etc. relating to missions,education and Africa Councils, 1918-1958
  7. Reports, memoranda, printed papers, correspondence, etc. relating tolabour and education in Africa, 1919-1945
  8. Miscellaneous papers, including on Africa, Asia and the New Hebrides,[1921-1953]


  • Creation: [1918-1958]


11 boxes

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Afr. s. 1829].

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Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Afr. s. 1829

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 3557

Biographical / Historical

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 indigenous 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 black people 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).


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.

Other 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.

Custodial History

Oldham gave this collection of papers to Dame Margery Perham in 1957 and 1964 for use in preparing a biography of Lord Lugard and a study of the political situation in East Africa between 1929 and 1931. The majority of this collection was transferred by her to the library in 1977. A few files had become detached and misplaced among her own papers, but when her archive was deposited by her executors in 1982, these were restored to their proper context.

Related Materials

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.

Papers of John Houldsworth Oldham, D.D.
Paul Davidson
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom