Clarke, George William

Reference code(s): GB 0237 Edinburgh University, CSCNWW 15
Held at: Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh
Title: Clarke, George William
Date(s) of contents: 1875-1969
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium: 8 items


Name of creator(s): Clarke, George William (1849-1899)

Administrative/Biographical history: George William Clarke, China Inland Mission missionary to China, was born on May 30 1849 in Shoreditch, East London. One of five children he began working full-time in a factory when he was nine years old. In his teens he attended a night school run by Annie Macpherson, the promoter of child migration to Canada. It was at one of her Sunday schools that he became a committed Christian and, at the age of fourteen, he became her full-time assistant. When he was twenty-three he took charge of the first party of Macpherson boys being sent to Canada. He had jobs there as a lumberjack and an engine driver as well as studying at college. In August 1875, however, he responded to Hudson Taylor's call for a group of eighteen men to join the China Inland Mission with the aim of entering the nine unevangelised provinces of inland China. During his first term in China he travelled over 20,000 miles through twelve provinces, concentrating in the first years on Hunan, Kweichow and Szechwan. In 1879, in Shanghai, he married Fanny Rossier (also referred to as Marta), a Swiss missionary. Their base was to be Kweiyang, capital of Kweichow, which they reached in 1880, Fanny being the first female missionary to have penetrated that far west. They lost a son at the end of that year and in May 1881 moved farther west into Yunnan, the first Protestant missionaries to work in that province. The work was isolated and difficult with very little progress. A son, Samuel, was born in 1883 but Fanny Clarke never recovered from the birth and died before the end of the year. Having no-one to assist with raising his son, Clarke left Yunnan in April 1884 and spent the rest of his life working in north-east China. In 1886 he married Agnes Lancaster, who had gone to China in 1880 and had worked in T'ai-yuen in the province of Shansi. After their marriage the Clarkes were based at Kwei-hwa-ch'eng in north Shansi. In 1888 they returned home on furlough then in 1889 went to Tientsin (Tianjin) where Clarke was mission secretary. They had a son (John) but Agnes Clarke died in 1892 after giving birth to a daughter (also Agnes). Clarke died in Shantung province in 1919 and was buried in the British cemetery at Tientsin. Despite his lack of formal education he had become a fluent Chinese speaker, kept accurate diaries, wrote a book on some of the provinces he worked in and translated an ancient Chinese classic which was later donated to the British Museum. His daughter, Agnes, was a CIM missionary for forty-six years and worked in east Szechwan before retiring to the CIM home for retired members in Kent.

Custodial history: George Clarke gave his diaries to his daughter Agnes who added notes and annotations to them at various times. She also collected articles from China's Millions on her family.

Immediate source of acquisition: The papers were presented to the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western world by Agnes Clarke in 1969.


Scope and content/abstract: The collection consists of a pamphlet by Agnes Clarke about her father (1962); three volumes of diaries written by George Clarke (1879-1883); a book on Kweichow and Yunnan provinces by George Clarke (1894); cuttings from China's Millions about the Clarke family (1875-1941); and four photographs of the family and one of a Chinese river (c 1880-1890)

System of arrangement: The items were numbered and listed in 'chronological' order by Agnes Clarke.


Language: English and some Chinese.

Conditions governing access: Contact the repository for details.

Conditions governing reproduction: Contact the repository for details.

Finding aids: A handlist is available.


Related material: The archives of the China Inland Mission are held at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Several of the histories of the Mission or biographies of Hudson Taylor mention the Clarke family, particularly the pioneering work of George and his wife Fanny: see, for example Story of the China Inland Mission by Geraldine Guinness (London, 1893). Agnes Clarke mentions 'an ancient Chinese classic' translated by Clarke which she donated to the British Museum. She also donated a copy of her book China's man of the book : the story of William Chalmers Burns (London, 1968) to the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World.

Publication note: Agnes Clarke used her father's diaries to write The Boy From Shoreditch (London: CIM, 1962)


Archivist's note: Compiled by Caroline Brown, Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, Edinburgh University.

Note: The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) the collection itself; (2) Story of the China Inland Mission by Geraldine Guinness (London, 1893).

Date(s) of descriptions: 4 June, 2001


Personal names
Clarke | Agnes | b 1892
Clarke | George William | 1849-1899

Corporate names
China Inland Mission