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Moffat, Robert (1795–1883)

  1. Iain S. Maclean

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0918

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Maclean, I. S. 2011. Moffat, Robert (1795–1883). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


A Scotsman, born on December 21, 1795 at Ormiston, sent by the London Missionary Society (LMS) to southern Africa in 1817. He became a pioneer missionary and linguist among the Tswana and Ndebele, and so a Bible translator. After acceptance as a missionary by the LMS, in 1816 he set out for South Africa. Prevented by political intrigue from traveling to Great Namaqualand, north of the Orange River, he returned to the Cape Peninsula and studied Dutch at Stellenbosch. He also traveled to other LMS stations with Dr. George Thom, another LMS missionary later to become a Dutch Reformed minister and educationalist. When permission came to cross the colonial frontier, he left Cape Town in October 1817, reaching Great Namaqualand and the peoples of Jager Afrikaner. After extensive travels in the region north of the Orange River, he returned to Cape Town in 1819, discovering there a deputation of two LMS missionaries, Dr. John Philip and John Campbell, prepared to investigate allegations against the LMS. Moffat joined them as the Dutch interpreter, but the deputation's work was halted by the outbreak of the Fifth Frontier (or Xhosa) War on the eastern frontier of the colony. On the return to Cape Town, Moffat's fiancée Mary Smith had arrived, and they were married in December 1819. The LMS persuaded Moffat to move from Namaqualand and so the Moffats arrived at Dithakong in 1820 to work among the Tswana.


  • Moffat, Robert (1795–1883);
  • pioneer missionary, linguist, among the tswana, ndebele;
  • bible translator