New, Charles


Charles New was a British Methodist missionary and explorer in East Africa. New was born in Fulham, then on the edge of London, the fifth child of a Methodist farm worker and teamster. He was apprenticed as a bootmaker and worked in Northampton until accepted in 1859 into the ministry of the United Methodist Free Churches. Largely self-educated, he had no theological training. After brief ministries in Lancashire and Cornwall, he volunteered for missionary service in 1862. New was at once sent to the East Africa mission, which had begun earlier that year through the inspiration of J. L. Krapf, joining the only survivor of the mission, Thomas Wakefield, who was very ill, at Ribe (now in Kenya). The mission strategy was to break through to the supposedly large and developed Galla (i.e., Orma) nation, whose lands, Krapf believed, stretched from behind Mombasa into Ethiopia. Meanwhile the Nyika of Ribe, while friendly, offered little encouragement. New, increasingly dubious about the viability of a Galla mission from Ribe, traveled in 1866 as far as the Tana River. He realized that the Galla were no longer a power in the land and that Maasai raiders disrupted communications there. The mission needed a new direction. New therefore decided to investigate the stories about Mount Kilimanjaro, snow-covered on the equator, which Johann Rebmann had seen, and which might offer a healthier mission base than the fever-ridden coast. In a remarkable journey in 1871 he climbed Kilimanjaro and established relations with the Chagga people under the formidable chief Mandara. In 1872 he delayed taking leave to join the Royal Geographical Society expedition to find David Livingstone. When this was abandoned, he returned to Britain, promoting the mission, campaigning against East African slavery, and writing a book about his travels. The Royal Geographical Society made him, like Livingstone, a corresponding member. In 1874 he renewed his search from Ribe for a more promising opening for mission. He returned to the Chagga, but Mandara this time was uncooperative. New became grievously ill and died in a vain attempt to reach missionary colleagues. He was an effective practical linguist and also established the first formal school in East Africa.

Andrew F. Walls


Charles New, Life, Wandering, and Labours in Eastern Africa, with an Account of the First Successful Ascent of the Equatorial Snow Mountain, Kilima Njaro, and Remarks upon East African Slavery (2d ed., 1873; 3d ed., with introduction by Alison Smith, 1971); S. S. Barton, The Life of Charles New, Missionary to East Africa (1889); O. A. Beckerlegge, United Methodist Ministers and Their Circuits (1968); R. Elliott Kendall, Charles New and the East African Mission (1978); R. Forbes Watson, Charles New (1960).

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.