François Coillard

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François Coillard

Birthplace: Asnières-les-Bourges, Cher, France
Death: May 27, 1904 (69)
Immediate Family:

Son of François Coillard and Madeleine Coillard
Husband of Christina Coillard

Occupation: Missionary
Managed by: Private User
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About François Coillard

Coillard suffered a fatal attack of haematuric fever at Lealui in Northern Rhodesia and died on 27 May 1904; he was buried near his wife at Sefula.

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Coillard was the youngest of the seven children of François Coillard and his wife Madeleine. Both parents were of Huguenot descent. In 1836, Coillard’s father died, leaving behind a nearly destitute widow.

COILLARD, FRANÇOIS After David Livingstone (q.v.), he was perhaps the most influential European missionary to live within the boundaries of modern Zambia. Coillard was born in France in 1834 and, as a youth, decided to join the Paris Missionary Society (q.v.). He and his wife, the former Christina Mackintosh, arrived at their first assignment, in Basutoland (modern Lesotho), in 1858. In 1877 they led a large party, which included their niece and four Sotho (q.v.) evangelists, to open a new mission station among Lobengula's Ndebele (qq.v.). When they reached this area in Southern Rhodesia they were not allowed to stay, and they moved west to the territory of chief Khama's Ngwato (qq.v.). Since they knew the Sotho language, he encouraged them to travel north to the Lozi (q.v.) who had adopted that language when it was forced on them by the Kololo (q.v.). Khama even interceded with the Lozi king for Coillard and his party. They then reached the Zambezi River (q.v.) in July 1878 and were permitted to cross to Sesheke (q.v.). There they waited while further messages were traded between Sesheke and Lealui, where the subject of the missionaries' presence was debated in the kuta (q.v.). Finally, the answer came that they, apparently mistaken for traders, could not come further north then but would be accepted at a later date. Coillard was encouraged and returned to Europe to raise money to finance a Barotseland (q.v.) mission. He returned to the upper Zambezi in 1884. With the aid of a respected trader, George Westbeech (q.v.), along with the recommendation from chief Khama, Coillard and his party entered Barotseland. Although delayed by a civil war in which Lewanika (q.v.) was temporarily deposed, the party arrived in the capital, Lealui (q.v.), in early 1885. They remained only briefly but returned in April 1886, after Lewanika had been reinstated. The Lozi king welcomed them and provided a mission site 32 kilometers (20 miles) away at Sefula (q.v.), where a school was opened in March 1887. This was the first of many mission locations of the Paris Missionary Society in Barotseland. Though his wife died and was buried at Sefula in 1891, Coillard remained there until 1896, then returned to Paris for two years. There his famous book Sur le Haut Zambezi (On the Threshold of Central Africa) was published in 1898. It came from his letters, his journal notes, and articles he had written for missionary publications. He returned to Barotseland in 1898, where he died in 1904. The historic importance of Coillard does not rest in his religious conversions, as he was only marginally successful. Even his close friend Lewanika (q.v.), who was so cooperative and who encouraged African youths to study at Coillard's schools, refused to abandon polygamy to convert to Christianity. Coillard's importance was based on Lewanika's confidence in him as an advisor in dealings with Europeans and as one who could help the Lozi acquire the protection of the Queen of England. Thus when Harry Ware (q.v.) arrived in June 1889 and proposed a mining concession, Coillard induced Lewanika to sign it, as a first step toward British protection. Coillard later denied that he had proposed the signing, but he also handled the Lochner Concession (q.v.) in an ambiguous fashion the very next year. His pro-British (and thus British South Africa Company, q.v.) stand reflected a desire to more quickly "civilize" the Lozi, while at the same time he feigned neutrality in order to rebut the accusation of some Lozi that he was encouraging Lewanika to give away their country to the Europeans. As a result of his work, Lozi leaders mistakenly thought that the treaty with Lochner was a treaty of protection with Queen Victoria.

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François Coillard's Timeline

July 17, 1834
Asnières-les-Bourges, Cher, France
May 27, 1904
Age 69