Memoir 15

Memoir: 15

Title: The Early Postal History of Barotseland; the Role of the Paris Missionaries in N.W. Rhodesia

Author: Sean Burke, Alan Drysdall and Paul Peggie

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The origins of this Memoir lie in Paul Peggie’s substantial collection of the postal history of the Paris Missionary Society in Barotseland. Paul’s early research and collecting provided the beginnings for this remarkable work of collaboration, with two of the authors in Australia, and details of the 200 covers listed coming from another dozen collectors. It is a detailed account of the early postal history of the area that became the Barotse Province of Northern Rhodesia, (and thus is the early postal history of N.W. Rhodesia.) as illustrated by the correspondence of the personnel of the Mission Évangelique du Haut Zambèze de la Société Évangelique de Paris, led in the first instance by François Coillard.

The courage, determination, ingenuity and faith of the missionaries, who within a generation transformed an extremely cruel, primitive society, cannot fail to impress. They communicated with their headquarters in Paris and with their supporters in western Europe as often as possible, and it was because of the demand that they created that the first postal routes serving the missions on the ‘upper’ Zambezi were developed, initially via Bechuanaland Protectorate, then a runner service via Kazungula and Bulawayo, followed by a route via Livingstone and a runner and ox-cart service, and finally utilising the rail link to Bulawayo.

The story of the mission is told in published accounts by Coillard (photographed above in 1902 at Sesheke surrounded by fellow missionaries), his niece and others who were involved, but it is also to be read in the messages on the cards and is vividly illustrated by the 12 or more series of postcards that were produced to publicise the mission and raise funds. The main chapters of the book describe the postal routes and rates, but there is an introductory chapter and a final chapter describing and illustrating the postcards. There are 112 illustrations, a useful index and four tables of information about the people, the rates and the covers traced.

This Memoir, the 11th in which Alan Drysdall has had a hand, contains much social history interest, and will be essential to those interested in the postal history of Central Africa. It can also provide a useful reference for postal historians generally.

The Early Postal History of Barotseland; the Role of the Paris Missionaries in N.W. Rhodesia by Sean Burke, Alan Drysdall RDP, RDPSA and Paul Peggie, Memoir 15 of the Rhodesian Study Circle; 144 pages with 112 illustrations, the majority, including all the covers and postal stationery cards, in colour; photocopied on A4 with card and transparent plastic covers and spiral bound.

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