Sibree, James

London Missionary Society

SubjectName James Sibree was an English missionary in Madagascar. Born in Hull, England, Sibree began missionary work in 1863 as an architect appointed by the London Missionary Society (LMS) to superintend erecting four large stone churches in Antananarivo, each a memorial to a particular martyr of recent persecutions. He then returned to England, studied for the ministry at Spring Hill College, married Deborah Richardson, and went again to Madagascar in 1870. He led in extending mission work outside the capital and began teaching in the theological college. Difficulties with the government forced him to withdraw for a time (1877-1883), during part of which he worked for the LMS in South India. Back in Madagascar, he became principal of the theological college, in which position he continued till retirement in 1915. In the years leading up to the French conquest, he was an outspoken champion of Malagasy independence and urged the LMS in England to be so also. He exhibited amazing industry, continually turning out plans for new mission buildings and writing numerous works in Malagasy and sixteen books in English. His books, which were accurate and popular although not scholarly, dealt with Malagasy fauna and flora, general history, and mission history in his adopted land. He was elected fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.

Charles W. Forman


Sibree’s major works include:

  • Fifty Years in Madagascar (1923). This is his autobiography.
  • Madagascar and Its People (1870).
  • The Great African Island (1880).
  • The Madagascar Mission: Its History and Present Position Briefly Sketched (1907).
  • Our English Cathedrals, 2 vols. (1911).

See also Norman Goodall, A History of the London Missionary Society, 1894-1945 (1954).

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.