Buchanan, Claudius (1766-1815)

Pioneer Anglican in India

Claudius BuchananBorn in Cambuslang, Scotland, Buchanan was converted in London under John Newton and became an Anglican. He went to Cambridge and upon graduation was appointed a chaplain to the East India Company. He arrived at Calcutta in 1797 as junior chaplain to David Brown and set about learning Indian languages. Under Lord Wellesley, Buchanan played a key role in the founding of Fort William College, serving as vice-provost from 1800 to 1806. In addition to providing training for East India Company civil servants, Buchanan and Brown wanted the college to sponsor translations of the Bible into many languages. They soon enlisted William Carey, from nearby Serampore, as a collaborator. Buchanan’s great concern was to see India opened to missionary work. As part of his strategy, he drafted a plan for setting up a full-scale ecclesiastical establishment in India. At the same time he recognized the importance of mobilizing public opinion in support of changing the East India Company charter to allow missionaries to enter India. He instituted in British universities prize essays on Christian missions (1803-1805), which resulted in some notable publications. He believed credible publicity required careful attention to facts, and despite poor health, he undertook an arduous journey (1806-1808) to investigate conditions in South India and Sri Lanka. His findings were published as Christian Researches in Asia (1811), a work often reprinted. In 1808 he returned to Great Britain to recuperate and to help in the campaign to open India to Christian missions by speaking and writing. He received honorary D.D. degrees from Glasgow, Aberdeen, St. Andrews, Dublin, and Cambridge universities in recognition of his distinguished service in promoting Bible translation and as a publicist. He died at age 49 in Yorkshire.

Wilbert R. Shenk, “Buchanan, Claudius,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 98-99.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.


Digital Primary

Buchanan, Claudius. The Works of the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, L.L.D. Baltimore: Neal and Wills, 1812.


Davidson, Allan K. Evangelicals and Attitudes to India, 1786-1813: Missionary Publicity and Claudius Buchanan. Oxfordshire: Sutton Courtenay Press, 1990.

Pearson, Hugh N. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D.D. 2 vol. Philadelphia: Benjamin & Thomas Kite, 1817.

Shenk, Wilbert R. “Claudius Buchanan.” In Mission Legacies: Biographical Studies of Leaders of the Modern Missionary Movement, edited by Gerald H. Anderson et al. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994. Pp. 255-263.



“Claudius Buchanan Image,” Courtesy, Center for Study of the Life and Work of William Carey, D.D. (1761-1834), William Carey University, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, 39401, USA. All rights reserved.