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Papers of the RBMU concerning the Congo, India, Nepal and Peru from the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, New College, University of Edinburgh

Part 3: Correspondence and Reports of the RBMU - Peru, Argentina, India, Nepal, Kalimintan and Irian Jaya, 1893-1955

The Regions Beyond Missionary Union, founded by the great nineteenth century millenarian, Henry Grattan-Guinness, D. D., is all but forgotten. The Guinness evangelical empire spanned the twentieth century and the world - Africa, Latin America, Asia. Moreover the mission survived through the turbulent era of decolonisation in the Belgian Congo, India and Asia, opening a whole new range of sources for those concerned with issues of colonialism and post-coloniality.
Professor David Dorward, Director, African Research Institute, La Trobe University, Australia

The Regions Beyond Missionary Union (RBMU) had its origins in the East End of London. Henry Grattan Guinness (1835-1910), whose uncle, Arthur Guinness, was the founder of the famous brewing empire, established the East London Training Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Stepney Green in 1873. The Institute moved to larger premises in Harley House in Bow later in that year. From the outset, the Institute was interdenominational and international, and sought to train missionaries for service with missions around the world. Its first student, Joshua Chowriappah, was from India, and by 1903 some 887 men and 281 women had been trained. Of these 215 left to work in Africa, 182 in Asia, 170 in the Americas and 26 in Australasia.

The name Regions Beyond Missionary Union was adopted in 1899 in recognition of the growing global outreach of the Institute. It was committed to working among the poor regions peripheral to and beyond the British Empire and had established its own missions in the Congo (1878), Peru (1897), and in Bihar and Orissa, India (1899). Later missions were established in Kalimantan (Borneo) (1948), Nepal (1954), and Irian Jaya (1957).

The archive includes the minute books of the Board of Directors, c.17,000 letters from missionaries in different regions, books, pamphlets, journals and photographs. These records contain information about the socio-economic development, as well as the growth of Christianity in these areas. They are a valuable source for world history and will serve scholars in a variety of disciplines.

Part 3 documents the work of the RBMU in other areas. Several Harley Institute students commenced work in South America in the 1890s and this was put on a formal footing in 1897 when Henry Grattan Guinness visited the region. The mission to Argentina became self-supporting through their work with schools, but progress in Peru was difficult. The initial mission was handed over to the Evangelical Union of South America in 1911, but a new mission - the Peru Inland Mission - was established by nurse Annie Soper in 1929, based in Lamas. Correspondence, reports and minutes describe this work. There is also a run of The Lamas Evangel, 1933-1937, full of accounts of medical, educational and evangelical work in South America.

Work in India commenced in 1899 with the establishment of RBMU missions in Orissa and Bihar. Bihar was truly at the edge of empire, on the northern fringes of India, next to Nepal. Schools, churches and orphanages were all founded and in 1930 the Duncan hospital opened at Raxaul. The mission did not make many converts, but during the Quit India movement in 1942 it provided a safe haven for refugees from the Australian Nepalese Mission, thus demonstrating its independence from empire. Minutes of the Indian Council, 1900-1919, station reports, letters and a multitude of rare printed items record the work of the RBMU in South Asia.

There is only a small amount of material relating to the missions to Nepal, Kalimantan and Irian Jaya, as these were all established at the end of the period covered in this microfilm edition. However, there are many good letters and accounts of pioneering missionary activity in the middle of the twentieth century - at a time when colonial rule was being relinquished.

This archive was deposited at the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World in 1991 following the winding up of the RBMU. The papers were fully sorted and catalogued in 2001. This microfilm edition offers scholars around the world the first opportunity to explore this archive in detail. The records relating to the Congo, Peru, Argentina, India, Kalimintan, Irian Jaya and Nepal will be vital to scholars studying these regions, but the archive also tells us much about the relationship of missionary enterprise and empire.

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