The Industrial Gospel of Robert Laws and the Livingstonia Expedition

Kenneth S Jeffrey* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been widely assumed that academic education layat the heart of nineteenth century Scottish missions in Africa. This article will argue that a particular form of education that included artisan skills-based, commercial and industrial training was the basis of the Livingstonia expedition led by Robert Laws in Nyasaland from 1875. Inspired by Dr James Stewart of Lovedale, financed by Free Church businessmen from Glasgow and led by teams of tradesmen, the aim of this mission was to establish small settlements that would create a network of trading centres from which commerce, civilisation and Christianity would spread across Africa. The ambitions and character of these first missionaries, not least Laws, exercised a fundamental influence upon the nature and purpose of this enterprise. Livingstonia was the most industrial mission of the modern era in Africa. A practical skills-based education was central to the gospel according to Robert Laws.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-50
Number of pages13
JournalScottish Church History
Issue number1
Early online date31 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Robert Laws
  • Livingstonia
  • mission
  • gospel
  • industry
  • commerce
  • Christianity


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