William Cousins was an English missionary to Madagascar. Born in Abingdon, England, Cousins studied at Bedford and married Abigail Williams. He was one of the first groups of missionaries sent by the London Missionary Society (LMS) to Madagascar in 1862 after the end of a long period of persecution. He was put in charge of one of the chief city churches in Antananarivo, which like other city churches, carried responsibility for a cluster of village churches in central Madagascar. In 1872 the five Protestant missions in the country decided to produce a new translation of the Bible, since growing missionary knowledge of the language had revealed many weaknesses in the first translation. Cousins was put in charge of the work, which was his chief occupation for 14 years. He was a strong advocate of missionary control over the admission of church members and over the appointment of all local pastors and preachers. At the same time, he tried to defend the church from control by the government, which assumed that the pre-Christian unity of state and religion would continue after national conversion to Christianity. He resigned from the mission in 1899 and was sent the following year as an LMS delegate to the Ecumenical Missionary Conference in New York. After a long period of retirement in England, he was killed in a street accident shortly before his ninety-ninth birthday.
Charles W. Forman
Norman Goodall, A History of the London Missionary Society, 1894-1945 (1954); Bonar Gow, Madagascar and the Protestant Impact: The Work of the British Missions, 1818-95 (1979); J. T. Hardyman, Madagascar on the Move (1950).
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.