James Archbell was an English Methodist missionary and politician in southern Africa. Born in Tadcaster, Yorkshire, England, Archbell arrived in 1819 at the Cape Colony with his new wife, Elizabeth (Haigh), and began work north of the Orange River among the Nama people. In 1824 he went to the Rolong, a Tswana people and in 1833 he negotiated with the Sotho king, Moshoeshoe, for land for the then dispossessed Rolong. He published a full grammar of Tswana based on the model of grammatical structure used by W.B. Boyce for Xhosa; earlier he had published a hymnbook and prayer book in Tswana. In 1836 he persuaded the Rolong to help the Boers of the Great Trek and was pastor to the Trekkers while they remained in the area. After a furlough he worked for three years among the Xhosa before moving to Natal in 1841. There he again ministered to the Trekkers while opening the first Methodist churches in Natal.
In 1848 Archbell resigned from the ministry. In his subsequent career as a journalist and politician in Natal, he was a leader in the cause of white supremacy, repeatedly expressing distaste for African people and bitter opposition to all so-called negrophile missionaries like John Philip.
Andrew C. Ross
J. du Plessis, A History of Christian Missions in South Africa (1911, 1965); L. A. Hewson, An Introduction to South African Methodists (1951); A.E. Walker, The Great Trek (1931, 1965).
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.