Skip to main content

Papers of Robert Laws

Identifier: Coll-75
Photo of Robert Laws (1951-1934)
Photo of Robert Laws (1951-1934)

Browse 1 digital objects in collection

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Robert Laws consist of notebooks and papers mainly relating to the work of the Livingstonia Mission in Nyasaland (now Malawi), including notebooks on African languages. There is correspondence and other papers and also printed items including translations from the Bible and grammars.


  • Creation: c 1875-1934


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Generally open, but some documents might be covered by Data Protection legislation. Please contact the repository in advance.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Laws, the son of an Aberdeen cabinetmaker, was born on 28 May 1851 at Mannofield, Aberdeen. He was educated at the Free East Church School, Aberdeen, and at Aberdeen University. He then studied Divinity at the United Presbyterian Theological Hall, Edinburgh, 1872-75, and also studied Medicine at the University of Aberdeen, 1871-73, at Anderson's College, Glasgow, 1873-74, and at the University of Glasgow, 1873-74. Between 1873 and 1875, Laws was a Missionary in the Smallpox and Fever Hospitals, Glasgow. In 1875 he was ordained by the United Presbyterian Presbytery of Aberdeen, and the same year was appointed as Medical Missionary of the Free Church of Scotland Mission, Livingstonia, Lake Nyasa. Laws was in full control of the mission station between 1877 and 1927. For a time he was also Principal of the Overtoun College, Livingstonia, and in 1894 was sent as a deputy to begin the Hope Waddell Training Institution in Calabar, now in Nigeria. During his career as a missionary, Laws developed a Christian community of some 60,000 including African pastors, and founded over 700 schools. He translated the New Testament in Nyanja, published an English-Nyanja dictionary, compiled a Gunda-English and English-Gunda vocabulary, and published works in the Tonga language. For three years he was a senior unofficial member of the Nyasaland Legislative Council. Robert Laws died on 6 August 1934.


0.45 linear metre (3 boxes)

Physical Location

Gen.561-563 (sequence in 507)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated in 1962 by Amelia Nyasa Laws (d. 1978), daughter of Robert Laws. Accession no E62/15.

Related Materials

The diary of Robert Laws is kept at New College under the reference code MS LAW.

The Special Collections also hold a Photograph Album containing pictures of the Livingstonia Mission and one photograph of Robert Laws in the 1930s (Coll-1848/18-0092).

Processing Information

Top-level description created by Aline Brodin in August 2018, drawing upon a previous description.

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379