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CHURCH MISSIONARY SOCIETY ARCHIVE
Section VI: Missions to India

Part 5: North India Mission, 1817-1880
Part 6: North India Mission, 1817-1880

Editorial Introduction by Rosemary Keen

The Church Missionary Society (CMS) came into being on 12 April 1799 at a public meeting at the Castle and Falcon Inn, Aldersgate, London. Why was it begun then, and into what kind of world was it born?

Its roots go back to the middle of the eighteenth century when there was a great revival in the Church of England inspired by the preaching of John Wesley and others. Although Wesley’s followers left the Church (and founded Methodism), other Anglican clergy aimed to revive and reform it by bringing personal conviction into religion at a time when clergy were often negligent and worldly. Their emphasis on individual conversion and justification by faith led them to be called Evangelicals.

As this movement grew there was an increasing desire to spread the Gospel where it had not been heard. At the same time there was a gradual realisation of the essential value of the individual and therefore the infamy of slavery. By the 1780s two groups in London were particularly concerned with these ideas, the Eclectic Society, and the Clapham Sect (members of John Venn’s church at Clapham).

The Eclectic Society had at various times discussed missionary needs and methods, partly inspired by the general interest in such matters which had led to the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792 and the London Missionary Society in 1795. At a meeting in March 1799 John Venn raised the specific question of how they themselves should spread the Gospel overseas and his call for action led to the April meeting at the Castle and Falcon. There a resolution was passed, “It is the duty highly incumbent upon every Christian to endeavour to propagate the knowledge of the Gospel among the Heathen;” and the Society for Missions to Africa and the East was formed (in 1812 renamed The Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East).

At the March Eclectic Meeting Venn had propounded certain fundamental missionary principles and these served and still serve as the Society’s guide. They were these:

  • to follow God in the same way as the missionaries of the early Church
  • to begin humbly and on a small scale
  • to put money after prayer and study
  • to depend on the Holy Spirit

The Society was ready to start work: but at first there were difficulties and delays. As the Society was seeking clergy as missionaries it could not begin work officially until the Archbishop of Canterbury had expressed his opinion of its proposals. He took sixteen months to consider their aims and then returned a neutral answer that “he would look on the proceedings with candour and that it would give him pleasure to find them such as he could approve”. He and other leaders in the Church of England did not see the need for another missionary society. Indeed no bishop gave formal approval to the Society until 1815.

There was a further difficulty in choice of mission field. West Africa was the natural first choice, for at Freetown there had been a colony for freed slaves established in 1786, under the charge of the Sierra Leone Company (of which some CMS founders were directors). Elsewhere, however, few places were open. The East India Company did not approve of missionaries to the Indians, although it accepted chaplains for the British communities; in China no foreigners other than traders were admitted; Japan was closed to outsiders.

The final delay was caused by inability to find missionaries. No suitable Englishmen could be found, although many candidates were interviewed and financial support was received from the first. It was not until 1804 that two German Lutheran clergy, Melchior Renner and Peter Hartwig, trained in the seminary at Berlin, sailed for Freetown. They were sent to work among the Susu tribe, but after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, opportunities were also opened up at the invitation of the Colonial Government among people rescued from slave ships and settled in Sierra Leone.

INDIA

When CMS began work in India the British East India Company would not allow missionaries in the areas which it administered and restricted the official ministrations of its chaplains to the European communities.  When Henry Martyn offered to CMS in 1802 and the Society was unable to send him out as a missionary, he was appointed a Company chaplain.  His six years in Calcutta justified the Society's hope of his "influence among the heathen", not least in the life of one of the earliest converts, Abdul Masih, who had heard Martyn preach.  Abdul was later to work as the Society's first lay agent and be ordained as one of the first Indian clergymen of the Anglican church.

In England William Wilberforce was leading a movement for the revision of the East India Company charter to enable missionaries to preach the Gospel to the Indians.  In Calcutta a group of Christians and Christian officials of the Company had formed a committee to consult CMS about methods of preparing for and exploiting any consequent openings.  So when in 1813 the Charter Bill was passed, CMS already had missionaries training for work in India.  The Bill also provided for the establishment of bishoprics in India and in 1814, the year that the first two CMS missionaries arrived in Madras, the first bishop of Calcutta was consecrated.

Bishop Middleton's relationship with CMS was difficult, though he founded a mission college in Calcutta to which the Society contributed.  His successor, Reginald Heber, was an ardent CMS supporter and, unlike Middleton, in his brief episcopate licensed the missionaries and ordained their lay agents.

NORTH INDIA 1799-1857

CMS work in north India developed rapidly, because, unlike any other of the Society's missions, it was controlled from the first by the committee in Calcutta.  London provided men and money, but other helpers and funds were found locally.  The committee decided the location of all the missionaries, catechists and lay agents and was therefore swiftly able to take advantage of any openings.  And there were many of these, for Company officials and army officers often started missionary work or raised money for it and then asked the Calcutta committee for missionaries. The Society was thus enabled to progress by its usual three-fold means of education, printing and the establishment of mission stations with ordained missionaries at their head.

The first CMS school to be opened was Jai Narayan's Boys' School at Benares (the modern Varanasi).  The building was a gift from a Hindu, who offered his house as a place where the new western learning might be taught.  That was in 1818 and in 1822 the first classes for girls were begun in Calcutta by Miss Mary Ann Cooke, the first woman CMS missionary in India.

In 1837/8 there was a terrible famine and the Calcutta committee supported relief work and opened orphanages at Sikandra and Agra.  Because the Christians naturally did not observe caste it was difficult to find trades for the orphans and so a new trade, printing, was introduced.  The press prospered so well that it not only paid for the orphanages, but was able to finance other mission institutions in Agra.

One such institution was St John's College.  The committee of the local Church Missionary Association in Agra had proposed founding a college where higher English education on Christian lines might be given to upper class Hindu boys.  Money was collected and the college opened in 1852.  Within five years it had 320 pupils and several branch schools established as feeders.

Also in 1852 came the opening of the mission in the Punjab, where Christian officers administering the newly conquered province and American Presbyterian missionaries approached CMS for help. The mission was centred on Amritsar and from there spread to Peshawar in the strongly Muslim North West Frontier province.

Then in 1857 came the Indian Mutiny. The Mutiny was confined almost entirely to the present Uttar Pradesh and Delhi and, although it originated in a mass of misunderstandings and grievances, it was an unplanned attack aimed by the soldiers at their British officers. In every place where the Mutiny broke out the Christian converts, who were considered followers of the British, were scattered; mission property was looted and destroyed and though CMS missionaries escaped, many others were killed.

SOUTH INDIA 1799-1857

The first two CMS missionaries to India were German Lutheran clergymen, J C Schnarre and C J Rhenius and they were sent to Madras. Rhenius was a brilliant linguist, self-confident and independent in spirit.  This, combined with the difficulties of Lutherans working under an Anglican Society led to strain between him and the Madras Corresponding Committee, and in 1820 Rhenius was transferred to Palamcottah (Palayamkottai) in Tinnevelly.

From the first the mission was astonishingly successful.  Rhenius enforced discipline amongst his catechumens but, although he collected the converts into Christian villages, they never became dependent on the mission as others in Tanjore and Vepery did.  Trouble came in the 1830s, however, when Rhenius was strongly influenced by one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren and attacked Anglican church order so violently that CMS was forced to disconnect him.  Schism in the church followed, but was healed after Rhenius' death in 1838.  Then, despite some difficulties, the church spread rapidly throughout Tinnevelly.

Madras had for long been the centre of missionary work by many Christian societies of all denominations. CMS matters were administered by a Corresponding Committee, a remarkable group of laymen, with the bishop of Madras as chairman and a CMS missionary as secretary.  The work did not grow as swiftly as in Tinnevelly, though an important influence was the Divinity class, carried on from 1837 to 1847, when separate institutions were then opened in Tinnevelly and Travancore.

The mission in Telegu was centred on schools, of which the outstanding one was the Noble College, Masulipatam; while in Travancore, where the work was originally begun in order to help the reformation of the ancient Syrian church, the mission proper continued with schools, printing presses and translation work.

WESTERN INDIA 1799-1857

The mission centred on Bombay was always one of the smallest in India.  The first CMS missionary arrived in 1820, to work in Bombay itself, but the scope was always confined.  The main area of work was in the Nasik district, where in 1854 the Rev W S Price founded the Christian village of Sharanpur.  This had not only schools, an orphanage and teacher-training classes, but also gave training in agriculture to some of the children.  During the 1860s it was also to include the African asylum where slaves freed from East African raiders were trained, many to return to Frere Town as "Nasik" boys.

INDIA 1858-1899

The Indian Mutiny had raised the whole question of the relationship between religion and government and led to the abolition of the East India Company and the re-establishment of direct British rule under the Crown, with its promise of strict religious neutrality.  At the same time the development of a country-wide educational system, and the introduction of postal services and railway communications, broke down regional differences and even moderated caste prejudice; and this was reflected in the church and mission work.

In education the Church was not always able to take advantage of government support and theological education suffered particularly badly from division of effort and lack of continuity.  Higher education for girls, however, advanced rapidly, helped by the zenana missionary societies which were staffed by women whose educational and medical skills reflected the change in their social position and education in England.  CMS shared work and missionary training with the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society, and it was CEZMS who ran the Sarah Tucker Institution at Palamcottah which in 1896 became the first college for women in south India.

It was at the Sarah Tucker Institution also in the 1890s that the first educational mission work began amongst the blind and deaf. This was another facet of the Christian caring shown by the quality of nursing in the medical missions.  There were many mission hospitals augmenting the government medical service.  CMS opened four on the North West Frontier of which one, Quetta (where work began in 1885), was to become world-famous for eye-surgery.

The growing ease of communication aided the development of the Church.  In the north there were new openings in the Punjab and Sind, the North West Frontier and even Kashmir (where Dr Elmslie began medical work in Srinagar in 1865).  In the 1860s CMS also took over work amongst the Santals and the mission in Chota Nagpur, begun by Pastor Gossner, a Lutheran, in 1845.  At the same period in the south there were mass movements in Travancore and Telegu with thousands of people converted.  Throughout India the Church formed new dioceses, while many Indian clergy were ordained and church councils were developed.  By the end of the century the Indian church was preparing for the independence it was at length to gain in 1930.

INDIA 1900-1949

Earlier hopes that the CMS home constituency would be able and willing to support the tremendous increase of staff and opportunities that had opened up in the 1890s were already fading by 1910.  The 1920s were a decade of retrenchment.  CMS was faced with a growing financial crisis which, together with a transformed political climate following the First World War, led to a re-consideration of its basic methods of work.  Henry Venn's idea of the self-governing, self-supporting and self-extending church which, once set up, could free the missionary to go to "the regions beyond" had in practice become static.  A paternalistic mission with its own governing authority was in many places stronger than the church, while in evangelism, education and medical work there was emphasis on work in cities and the massive rural population was comparatively neglected.

In 1921-22 CMS sent a delegation of headquarters' Secretaries to India.  They reported the urgent need to transfer control from the mission to the Church.  At the same time they recognised the needs of the villages, noting particularly the Mass Movements throughout India which were an entirely rural development. These twin needs of diocesanisation and rural outreach were the theme throughout the 1920s and 1930s though the change in role for CMS as in other countries was not completed until the 1950s after the independence of India and Pakistan.

The Mass Movements which started during the First World War were not a new phenomenon in India. There had been such a mass conversion amongst the Shanars in Tinnevelly in the 1850s, but these were remarkable enough to produce special appeals for funds among the CMS supporters in Britain.  In 1918 a Mass Movement campaign was launched in London, with Canon D S Johnson of Manchester a leading figure in raising support particularly from northwest England.  The 1920 CMS Annual Sermon by Bishop Azariah of Dornakal reinforced the appeal.  The Telegu movement in the south was the largest (helped by special funds raised by Canon Johnson) and in 1928 there were 45,000 people in the area under instruction for baptism.  In the north the villages were more scattered and the Christians were fewer. Bishop Whitehead of Madras had urged in 1917 the tremendous need for more trained village workers and Indian clergy, for the CMS districts were too large and unwieldy for effective supervision.  Among the women, help from women missionaries was indispensable and CMS was helped by staff from CEZMS and the Zenana Bible and Medical Mission.

The CMS Medical Committee at headquarters encouraged rural development and in the 1930s the larger hospitals such as those at Bannu and Multan became the base from which teams of trained medical assistants were sent round the villages, teaching basic health rules and holding clinics.  Vidyanagar had a mobile unit which visited the more remote villages with staff who had been instructed in hygiene and preventive medicine.  In 1939 the Travancore and Cochin mission had a floating dispensary (a 'wallam') at Kottayam.

The spread of education to the villages had begun in 1919 when the National Missionary Council set up a commission on village education (with Alec Fraser, CMS principal of Trinity College Kandy as chairman).  The commission's report in 1920 proposed the setting up of vocational middle schools for each district, that would provide village boys with industrial and technical skills.  CMS missionaries worked on such schemes at Vidyanagar and Sikandra.  Ten years later a conference at Poona on rural missionary work proposed rural reconstruction units for which the village pastor and teacher would be key figures.  Groups of villages were to have some kind of community council to deal with such matters as education, health and economic and social progress.  None of these schemes was successful in the long term because the communities did not need the types of agriculture and industry that the boys were taught.

The encouragement of rural outreach and the redeployment of staff led to the reduction of work in the city schools, an aspect of urban evangelism which CMS felt should be undertaken by the Church.  These day schools for non-Christian girls provided them with basic educational skills and were to prove valuable as more importance was given to the need for educated wives and mothers.

Other urban education was not so badly affected. The CMS boarding schools for girls, of which the Alexandra School at Amritsar was a notable example, educated girls who later qualified as doctors, teachers and nurses.  There was also one women's college, the Sarah Tucker College, Palamcottah, which was raised to a degree college in 1939.

The high schools for boys were harder hit.  They all prepared boys for college and retrenchment meant nearly all of them were given up.  There were a few exceptions, such as the famous Tyndale-Biscoe School at Srinagar, renowned for its English public-school regime and the Jai Narayan School at Benares which had special endowments.  Colleges were comparatively little affected because most of their income came from fees and government grants.  The Society paid the allowances of the missionaries on the staff, but in practice found more difficulty in finding suitably qualified staff than in paying their allowances.  It was this kind of difficulty that led to the incorporation of Noble College Masulipatam with the American Lutheran college at Guntur in 1938 when it changed its name to Andhra Christian College.  CMS also shared in Madras Women's Christian College and Kinnaird College for women in Lahore.  This last was founded by ZBMM.  It also continued to contribute to Bishop's College, the theological college in Calcutta.

It was in the training of the clergy that the paternalistic attitude of the missionaries most showed itself.  In addition to Bishop's College which was equally supported by CMS and SPG there were two other divinity schools in north India, St John's Divinity School Lahore and Shikarpur vernacular Divinity Training School which had opened in 1930 under P J Heaton.  But there was a continuing shortage of well-educated candidates because Indians did not want to be mere missionaries' assistants.  They wanted parity of stipend and opportunity for advancement.  Joint theological training was suggested in 1929 at Saharanpore where CMS joined with Baptists and Presbyterians, but this closed in 1934 because there was not enough European staff. The following year the CMS Secretaries visited India and proposed a North India Clergy Training School at Khatauli. SPG sent students but did not support it financially. It worked well until 1947 when with partition it lost almost half the area from which its students came and in 1950 it was forced to close.

Outreach work had been developed, but diocesanisation was slow to achieve. The 1921-22 Delegation had recognised that in India the bishop and the CMS mission secretary had developed into two parallel authorities. The simple expedient of the CMS committees solving the problem by replacing Europeans with Indians would only perpetuate the fault. Bearing in mind the new political climate after the First World War and the aspirations for self determination of the Indian Christians the CMS General Committee in 1923 approved the transfer of CMS work to the diocese as a matter of urgency. In south India the administrative change was rapid with the Madras, Telegu and Tinnevelly missions completing handover by 1924 and Travancore and Cochin in 1927.  The missions in north and west India were all basically reluctant, mainly preferring to adopt a form of local councils based on the original CMS committees, which were related to the diocese. Indeed in the Punjab complete diocesanisation was only achieved in 1947 when the English chaplains had to leave the country.

Even in dioceses where the administrative transfer was achieved and working well there still remained the transfer of financial control without which the Indian Church could not truly be self-governing.  For this to be achieved CMS had to transfer the properties it owned in India.  In 1926 a special meeting of the General Committee authorised CMS to deal with and dispose of all its properties either by transfer to the diocese or by sale where more appropriate, and a sub-committee was set up to deal with this.  Its report in 1931 was sent to the mission secretaries and included lists of properties which might be sold.  This was not accepted by either the missionaries or the local church as they did not agree to the money from the sale being returned to England and did not appreciate that any loss of properties, even by transfer, meant loss of capital to CMS on which the Society could raise the bank overdrafts it needed to continue its work in India and elsewhere. Matters were made worse because since the First World War CMS had carried the cost of the adverse rate of exchange  between the pound and rupee, which had forced it into these large overdrafts. So the Society felt that it was only just that it should have back the money that it needed. 

In 1934 the General Secretary (Wilson Cash), India Secretary (Sir Cusack Walton) and the CMS accountant L H Hardman (who had compiled the property registers and reported on them in detail) went to India and met the Christian leaders, including Mr Rallia Ram. There was determination and goodwill on both sides, but discussions were still going on when the Second World War began and while CMS continued to urge the Church to accept control of the properties, some people in India considered that foreign owned properties were then more secure than those owned by a small Christian community.

India was one of the oldest and largest of the CMS mission fields.  The Anglican Church, which hundreds of CMS missionaries had served, had achieved its independence as an autonomous province in the Anglican Communion in 1930.  The movement towards church union had begun as far back as 1872, when at the Allahabad inter-mission conference, John Barton, CMS mission secretary, read a paper on "The Indian Church of the Future".  In it he discussed and expounded the underlying unity which crossed denominational boundaries.  From the 1890s there had been inter-church and inter-mission activity; three Presbyterian churches in south India had joined to form the South India United Church.  The Edinburgh Conference of 1910 gave great impetus to this movement.  In that year Anglicans held a meeting with the SIUC.  V S Azariah was present and he arranged another conference at Tranquebar in 1919, the first of many.  Gradually more churches joined in the discussions, difficulties were overcome and the Church of South India was inaugurated in September 1947.  CMS strongly supported the scheme throughout.

In north India the movement began later, the Presbyterian and Congregational churches uniting in 1924.  Relationships between the Methodists and Anglicans were complicated and the wider range of ecclesiastical traditions slowed progress, so that it was not until 1970 that the two United Churches of North India and Pakistan came into being.

THE ORGANISATION AND CLASSIFICATION OF THE ARCHIVE

Organisation

The arrangement of the archive reflects the administrative growth of the Society. The Society is basically run by committees and the Secretaries to the main committees are heads of departments at headquarters and in many ways act as a board of directors. The work of the Society is in two parts; home (i.e. within the British Isles) and overseas.

Committees

The overseas part of the work was originally the responsibility of the Committee of Correspondence. It was to seek out prospective missionaries, to prepare them for service overseas and to be responsible for them from then on. In effect its role combined the tasks of what were later to be the Candidates, Medical, Africa and Asia departments. For the archives of the Candidates and Medical departments the classification system for work within the British Isles has been used. The Africa and Asia departments have their own classification system for the papers commonly known as the “mission archives” for the period 1799 to 1949. Their post-1934 papers on general subjects however, use the classification system for work within the British Isles.

The two other committees set up when the Society began were the General Committee, which directed overall policy, and the Committee of Accounts (later the Finance Committee) which was responsible for administering the funds. These became the General Secretary’s department and the Finance department or division. Both these departments’ archives have also been treated as part of the work within the British Isles.

In 1811 a Committee of Funds was appointed whose task was to augment the Society’s funds. This developed into the Funds and Home Organisation Committeee in 1881 and the work moved out of the sphere of the Finance department, though it remained closely linked with it. The Home Secretary was head of the Home division whose archives use the classification system for work within the British Isles.

Departments

The General Secretary’s department is the most important because the General Committee was ultimately responsible for CMS policy. There are three areas of responsibility for the General Secretary. The first is as chief Candidates’ Secretary. Apart from a short time during Henry Venn’s secretaryship the work of seeking out and training missionary candidates belonged to the General Secretary. The heavy pressure of work led to the formation of a Candidates department in 1897 and this was considered part of the General Secretary’s responsibility until 1914 when it became a branch of the Foreign department. However the General Secretary continued to consider himself the chief Candidates Secretary until the major reorganisation of the Society’s headquarters administration in 1982. The department’s records therefore include the records of Islington College and other training institutions.

Until 1880 the Secretary to the General Committee was also Secretary to the Committee of Correspondence and as such was considered the chief Foreign Secretary (a term not formally used until later). When the three Group Secretaries took over the routine administration of the work in the missions overseas the General Secretary remained responsible for overall policy and continued to be the designated secretary for correspondence with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with overseas bishops. This responsibility has continued to the present day. The department’s  records therefore comprise not only a major source for the policy underlying the activities of the Society abroad, but are the main source on the formation of churches and dioceses and the appointment of bishops.

All the Secretaries have equal authority in the administration of the Society, but because the General Committee (now General Council) was the Society’s ultimate authority the General Secretary is considered “first among equals”. He is the representative of the Society in dealing with bishops and archbishops. He is also responsible for all spiritual matters. The department’s records therefore contain papers on staff welfare and much personal and confidential correspondence which reflect his role of final arbiter and highest court of appeal.

The Medical department was set up in 1891 and served both the Medical Committee, which was responsible for the administration of medical missions overseas, and the Medical Missions Auxiliary Fund Committee, whose task was to arouse support within the British Isles to enable the MMA “to increase the number and equip thoroughly the medical missions of the Society”. The department’s archives contain correspondence with all the hospitals and other medical institutions founded and staffed by CMS. The medical periodical called Mercy and Truth contains articles about the institutions and the medical work (though emphasis is on evangelistic opportunities rather than purely medical details).

The Candidates department dates from 1897 but the work of seeking out and training missionary candidates was the responsibility of the Secretary to the General Committee from the founding of the Society. In 1891 pressure of work led to the appointment of an Assistant Clerical Secretary whose sole job was to work with prospective candidates. In 1897 this Assistant was made a full Secretary of the Society and the Candidates department was formed.

Its task was to correspond with and be responsible for prospective missionaries from the time of their first application until their departure to their work. The Secretary was also responsible for corresponding with the five Colonial Church Missionary Associations, whose candidates, from the 1890s until about the 1920s, had to be approved by CMS London before being accepted. The department also corresponded similarly with the West Indies Church Missionary Council, which negotiated the employment of West Indian agents in West Africa.

At first the department was considered part of the General Secretary’s responsibility but in 1914 it was proposed that for administrative purposes it should be a branch of the Foreign department (Africa and Asia). In practice it appears to have retained independence while being very closely linked with both the Foreign department and the General Secretary’s department.

The Candidates department’s papers mainly comprise the application papers of prospective missionaries. Unfortunately it was this department that suffered when an incendiary damaged headquarters in the Blitz. The committee minutes survive, but for the correspondence there is one set of bound volumes of letters for 1846-65 and then a gap until the early 1890s. A small tin trunk full of the “blue packets” of application papers was all that survived for the period up to 1940.

The Finance department  existed from the founding of the Society in 1799 when the Committee of Accounts was set up “to receive subscriptions, to regulate the accounts and to undertake the charge of fitting out and conveying the missionaries to the place of their destination”. The receipt of money, including that derived from legacies, and the keeping of the accounts remain the chief work of the Finance department today. In 1842 following a financial crisis a Finance Committee was appointed “without whose sanction no expense of any kind was to be incurred”. Besides dealing with purely accounting functions, the Finance department has always been responsible for the Society’s property at home and overseas and for special funds set up for specific purposes (mainly connected with foreign work). The Finance Secretary has also been responsible for the physical administration and organisation of headquarters and for the payment of salaries and pensions to the missionaries and staff. The department has the usual financial volumes, papers about property etc. There is also interesting correspondence with the Foreign Office and other government departments 1876-1914.

The Home department or division began in 1871 with the appointment of a Central or Home Secretary. The department’s earliest responsibility was for the deputation work, through which interest in and support for mission might be stimulated. For this it was largely dependent on the local Associations for which it supplied magazines and other publications as well as missionary collecting boxes. The Home Secretary was also in charge of the field staff (agents from headquarters who were stationed at convenient centres throughout the British Isles and who provided support services for the local CMS supporters).

The work of the department expanded quickly and it became responsible for all the publications of the Society, with an Editorial Secretary (formerly the editor) at the head of a large section. By 1915 when  Eugene Stock was Editorial Secretary there were sections dealing with such matters as women’s work, missionary study, education (public schools, Young People’s Union), exhibitions, and the Gleaners’ Union. It was also responsible for organising meetings such as the Summer Schools, congresses, the Day of Intercession and the anniversary meetings (Annual Sermon etc.). The division’s responsibilities were at their greatest in the 1940s and 1950s, when there were four departments in charge of 36 sections. The four comprised the Deputy Home Secretary (responsible for deputation work and the field staff), the Editorial Secretary (in charge of all the Society’s publications) the Publicity Director and the Education Secretary (who was also responsible for work amongst children and youth).

There are the usual files of correspondence and often minute books for each section of the Home division, though the ephemeral nature of the work means that some sections’ records are sparse or incomplete. The Editorial section includes the file set of all the Society’s publications.

Classification

A. Work within the British Isles

Each Secretary to a CMS main committee has a department at headquarters. These departments have been allocated a reference letter, e.g. C Candidates, F Finance, G General Secretary. The files of each department have then been divided into groups according to the use which the department gave them e.g. A Administration, C Committee work. Where this grouping is very large (notably with the administrative files) there are further sub-divisions, e.g. AC Correspondence, AT Training.

The files or volumes in each group or subdivision are then numbered so that each can be individually called up for reference. Volumes are always individually numbered and occasionally for certain series of correspondence etc. each individual item has its own number. For the most part, however, the reference is for a group of papers comprising a file.

When quoting the file reference it is essential to have the department letter as well as the rest, for the sub-references occur in the papers of nearly all the various departments at headquarters. AC1, for example, merely indicates the first entry in the correspondence series (ref.AC) and must be further differentiated as to whether it is, for example, in the Finance department’s records (F/AC1), the Medical department  (M/AC 1)  or the Candidates’ department’s files (C/AC 1).

B. Overseas (Missions) Series

Each mission area, as soon as it was allocated  a mission secretary, had its own administrative machinery of committees, conferences etc. At the same time it had its own series of correspondence and papers at headquarters. For the period before 1880 the work was under the Committee of  Correspondence (C); then in 1880 the work was divided into three groups, each with its own sub-committee East Asia (G1), West Asia (G2) and Africa (G3).

1799-1880 Under the Committee of Correspondence (C)

At some point between 1805 and 1810 the early incoming and outgoing correspondence was collated, bound and indexed and this series continues until 1820 (E). From 1820 until 1880 the copies of outgoing letters were pasted into letter-books (L) and there is a separate series of incoming papers (O). Copies of the incoming papers were made by clerks at headquarters on quires of papers which were bound into mission books (M).

1880-1934 Under Group Committees (Groups 1-3: East Asia; West Asia; Africa: reference G1, G2, G3)

The main series of letter-books continue for this period (L) and consist almost entirely of official letters to the mission secretary. Private and confidential letters to individual missionaries are entered in a series of individual letter-books (I), the incoming papers (O) were kept year by year in a sequence numbered for each year, while a summary was kept in the précis books (P) (which also acted as agenda for the committee meetings).

1935-1949 Under Africa and Asia Committees

The incoming and outgoing correspondence is kept together in a series of files comprising correspondence with the mission secretary and papers of other local CMS committees in a numbered sequence prefixed by the mission area’s own reference; then follows the correspondence with the bishop and diocesan authorities (d); series of files for each educational (e) or medical (m) institution or place (g) in which CMS missionaries worked.

Each mission area has it own classification reference. The African missions (A) are numbered in the order in which work began in the country or area e.g. A 1 Sierra Leone, A 3 Niger, A 8 Tanganyika. The Indian missions likewise: I 1 North India, I 5 Travancore and Cochin. Other missions have letters e.g. CE Ceylon, SN Northern Sudan etc.

N.B. Because all mission archives series have the same sets of letter-books etc., it is essential, when giving references at all times to distinguish the series, e.g. I 4 (Punjab and Sind), CE (Ceylon) and whether it is pre-1880 or post-1880 (i.e. C I 4 or G2 I 4). An incomplete reference such as L 1 (for first letterbook) or P 2 (second précis book) could refer to any of eleven African missions, ten Indian missions, five China missions or many others.

HOW TO USE THE ARCHIVE

A. Start with the printed material

Both Stock’s History of the Church Missionary Society (for the years 1799-1915) and Hewitt’s The Problems of Success (dealing with the period 1910-42) will give you the background for the mission area you will need to study. Both have name and place indices; Stock’s are particularly comprehensive. If your interest is in the overseas part of the Society’s work you will then need the “Proceedings” or Annual Reports which list all the missionaries each year arranged under the mission in which they work. Each mission has its own series of archives and it is essential to know the names of the missions rather than the names of the countries as they do not always correspond. For example Nigeria had three missions but the earliest Yoruba mission papers are to be found in the Sierra Leone mission series, as until 1844 all West Africa affairs were administered locally by the Sierra Leone mission secretary. In a similar way the work in Uganda was administered as part of the East Africa mission from 1889 to 1897 and in the “Proceedings” for those years the Uganda missionaries are listed with those working in Kenya and their letters are to be found in the Kenya mission archive series.

The “Proceedings” also include a summary of affairs for each mission which, until the 1930s, is in considerable detail and includes quotations from letters and reports. The Society’s periodicals, such as the C M Gleaner and C M Intelligencer contain not only articles on CMS and mission affairs but also lengthy extracts from journals, reports and letters sent by missionaries and others.

Reading printed material has the additional advantage that it enables you to become familiar with, for example, the nineteenth century spellings of place names, before you are faced with difficult to read manuscript material.

B. Read the catalogues

There are catalogues for all the departments/divisions at headquarters. The records of the foreign departments cannot be understood properly without consulting the papers of the other departments. Please note also that entries in the mission series catalogues draw attention to particular papers, not by assessment of their possible importance for mission work, but on the basis of whether the document or its content may be viewed as unusual in the context of routine mission business.

The catalogues for the mission series include summary notes on the development of the work, giving the main stations; the arrangement and classification of the mission archive series; notes about the citing of reference numbers; lists of the names and dates of office of the Secretaries with primary responsibility for the mission area; lists of the General Secretaries and the Lay (Financial) Secretaries for the period covered by the catalogue. The names are given in full which is necessary as many of the papers are initialed after being read and it is often vital to know which Secretary or other member of staff has dealt with the item.

The catalogues for the other departments at headquarters include lists of Secretaries and officers; a history of the department; a note about the citing of reference numbers and occasionally notes of any relevant material in other departments’ papers.

C. Search the card indexes

The main indexes (name, place and subject) contain entries from all the mission catalogues, plus the usual mass of useful information found when listing or browsing through the archives. They will eventually cover all the catalogues. Occasionally an individual document or  correspondence series has been indexed in minute detail e.g. the correspondence within the British Isles in the 1872-1901 series in the General Secretary’s papers (ref:G/AC4). As the pre-1880 mission catalogues list the missionaries and agents in alphabetical order and also give their mission stations it has been possible to incorporate in the place index an alphabetical list of agents (with dates) for each station. In a similar way there are lists of the CEZMS stations with their agents. The name index also includes lists of CEZMS and FES missionaries, authors of articles in the C M Intelligencer and Mercy and Truth and obituaries in the C M Intelligencer and the C M Gleaner. For both names and places there are indexes of the illustrations in the periodicals C M Gleaner and Mercy and Truth. These indexes in particular are invaluable as nearly always the presence of an illustration means that there is something else about the subject in the contents of the periodical.

How to search by person

If the person you are interested in is a missionary, the first item to consult is the Register of Missionaries, which gives the biographical details together with details of where the missionary worked. Check in the “Proceedings” to find which mission the place is listed under. The overseas mission section of the archive is divided into three periods 1799-1880, 1880-1934 and 1935-1949. Each period has its own type of archive.

For the period 1799-1880 you will find letters to the missionary from the Secretaries in London in the outgoing letter-book series; letters from the missionary will be in the series called “original papers incoming”.

For the period 1880-1934 you will find the letters to the missionary from the secretaries in London in the letter-books, but for the letters from the missionary you will need to work your way through the précis books. These are a set of volumes containing the précis of all the papers sent to London from the mission numbered year by year in the order in which they arrived in London. They are printed or typed and each entry gives the number of the item, the date it was written and received, the name of the writer and the précis of the contents. The originals of these papers are kept in packets arranged numerically year by year. All you need is the number of the item and the year. Be careful because you need the year in which the committee dealt with the item, not necessarily the year in which the item was written. For example, the January committee meeting each year obviously dealt with December letters and in that case the December letter will be found in the January year. The number itself will give a clue in many cases. A high number is not likely to be dealt with in January. The précis is useful if there are not many letters because it is quick to use, but it is also useful because some of the items are missing from the series because they were transferred to other departments after the précis clerks had dealt with them, e.g. the Finance department dealt with requests for grants from trust funds and the Editorial department published the Annual Letters and kept the originals in their own papers.

For the period post-1934 the incoming and outgoing correspondence was kept together in each file. The files for each mission series consist of correspondence with the mission secretary, minutes of local governing bodies, correspondence with the bishop (arranged by dioceses), educational institutions, places and medical institutions. For these it is essential to know where the missionary was working.

Remember that with the entire overseas correspondence for any period there will be much about the missionary in the mission secretary’s papers and possibly also among the diocesan and bishop’s papers if he was a clergyman.

The first contact a prospective missionary had with the Society was when he applied to CMS. The earliest letters from prospective candidates are to be found in the papers of the General Secretary’s department. As they are part of a massive series of incoming correspondence within the whole of the British Isles (ref:G/AC 3) which at present is largely unindexed it is easiest to work through the indexes to the main series of Committee minutes which until 1853 have an exhaustive name index in each volume. The entries note the receipt of letters with their date. Many of the originals do not survive but there is often a very adequate summary of their contents in the minutes.

There are also registers of candidates, each volume having an index. They include people who did not actually become missionaries. The volumes do not give much detail but include the names and often the addresses of their referees. They also usually include the address of the candidate.

Letters from prospective missionaries for the period before 1867 are included in the series of correspondence within the British Isles (G/AC 3) until they finally sailed from England i.e. while they were sailing round the English coast their letters were included in the G/AC 3 series. When they came home on furlough their letters were again entered in the General Secretary’s volumes, but they may also occur in the appropriate mission series. After they retired or left CMS their letters revert to the General Secretary’s series again.

There are some papers relating solely to missionaries in the Finance department’s papers and the series of the Goodwin Fund for Widows is particularly useful for information on missionaries’ children 1852-1888.

For anyone who is not known to be a missionary the simplest way is to start with the main name card index. For committee members there is some information in the General Secretary’s papers, but for the most part there is no personal information about anyone other than the missionaries. Even the Secretaries themselves are often not described. But the obituaries in the C M Gleaner and C M Intelligencer are all included in the name index and these often provide a few clues.

How to search by place

The place index includes lists of the CMS missionaries at each station for the period pre-1880. It also includes similar cards for the CEZMS and FES staff. The most important thing to remember with places is that for the mission series the place will be in the archive series to which CMS administratively allotted it. In other words the place may be in Uganda, but if it was being administered by the Kenya mission secretary then the archives about it will be in the Kenya series.

How to search by subject

Obviously subjects are the most difficult to deal with and if you can possibly discover a person or place vitally connected with your subject your task will be much simpler. If the subject involves looking at the mission archive series for a limited period, say a decade, then for the pre-1880 period it would probably be simpler to work your way through the mission books rather than the incoming papers; for example the development of the Church in Sierra Leone in the 1840s or the history of the causes of the war known as the Indian Mutiny.

For correspondence with the Foreign Office and government you need the General Secretary’s papers, though there is also a series of correspondence with the Foreign Office for 1876-1900 in the Finance department.

EXAMPLES OF SEARCHES FOR MISSIONARIES

1. Suppose you are doing research on Charles Frederick Warren who worked in Japan.

First look in the Register of Missionaries. As he was a clergyman he will be in List 1. The information in the Register gives you his age in the year he was accepted; where he was domiciled at the time he applied to the Society; where he was educated; dates of his ordination; date when he sailed and to which place (1864, Hong Kong, China); where he was stationed, with dates (notice that he came home from China in 1868 and held a curacy in England before being transferred in 1873 to Japan, as first CMS missionary in Osaka); dates of his furloughs i.e. return on leave to England or elsewhere; date of his leaving the Society’s service and whether he retired or resigned etc.; the entry may include clerical posts held after his leaving CMS, but in this instance he died in Japan while still working; note of his relationship to any other CMS missionaries; date of marriage(s) and name(s) of wife; details of any of his publications and his translation work; date of death.

This information will show you which mission series you will be working on: in this case China 1864-1868 and Japan 1873-1899.

Now you can look at the catalogue for the China mission series where you will find that there are 63 items in his entry comprising fifty letters 1865-68, ten journals 1864-1868 and three Annual Letters 1865-67 (reference C CH/O 90/1-63). The entry in the catalogue lists him as Hong Kong because that was the place from whence he wrote his letters. Often this place is also his official mission station, but this cannot be assumed to be so. His official mission station is the one under which his name is listed in the Society’s “Proceedings” or Annual Reports. If you do not know the exact location of the station you can find it in the Missionary Atlas, which has maps of all the mission areas showing the places at which CMS had work (as well as the stations of other Protestant missionary societies).The letters that Warren wrote (/1-50) would all have been seen and sent on to London by the mission secretary so it is probable that there may be letters about him in the secretary’s correspondence as well as references to him in the papers of other missionaries stationed in Hong Kong. If the mission secretary was writing about him to the Secretaries in London then it is highly probable that there will be letters about him in the series of outgoing letter-books which contain the letters from London to China (C CH/L). These letter-books have a name index of correspondents but obviously the index does not include people who are mentioned in the letters. There may also be letters to him in the Individual Letter-books series written from London and containing private and confidential letters to the individual missionary, usually of condolence or censure (C CH/I). The journals (/51-60) comprise his diary kept from the time he left England. Copies or extracts were to be sent quarterly to London and describe, often in great detail, everything that the writer did, including everything that he saw. Extracts from these journals were often used in the Society’s printed reports and journals, including the “Proceedings” and as the originals were not always returned for filing it is worthwhile checking in the publications for missing material. The Annual Letters (/61-63) are the annual private reports made by missionaries directly to the Secretaries in London. As the originals do not always survive it would be worth checking in the mission books series (/M) which include a set of copies of the Annual Letters for each year. There might also be extracts published in either the “Proceedings” or the C M Gleaner.

To work on the material for Warren during his time in Japan start with the Japan catalogue. Here you will find 48 items covering his time at Osaka from 1874-1880 (reference CJ/O 16/1-48) comprising 30 letters 1873-1880 (/1-30), journal extracts 1875-1879 (/31-36), Annual Letters for 1874-79 (/37-42) and six other miscellaneous items including an account of a tour beyond the treaty limits in 1875. These papers are similar to those described in the China catalogue. But you know from the entry in the Register of Missionaries that Warren continued to work until 1899.

For the period after 1880 you will be working on the 1880-1934 archive series for Japan, when it was allocated to the Group 1 (East Asia) Committee in London (reference G1J). In this series the letter-books continue in the same way as before and letters to Warren will therefore be indexed in the volumes. The original incoming letters from Japan are filed year by year in the chronological order in which they were received at headquarters, each item being given a number, and therefore the easiest way to find the item numbers for Warren’s own letters is to work your way through the précis book. This contains the summarised entries in numerical order and as they are printed (later typed) they can be quickly scanned. As before there will be references to him in other people’s letters as well as items about him in the local conference and committee minutes. Such matters as change of work or station had to be approved by the local committees. In the précis books themselves you will note that some of the items are marked “M” for “missing”. This has been done by the archivist and indicates that that item is not in the packet of papers for that year in the Japan mission series. Where possible the archive reference for its present whereabouts is entered e.g. papers used for the Centenary Review Committee are now in the General Secretary’s department’s papers.

Where there is no clue as to the present whereabouts it is often because the item was in some way connected with finance and unfortunately the Finance department to which the item was transferred did not preserve routine correspondence on financial matters.

In order to find out more about Warren before he was accepted by CMS as a missionary you need to consult the Register of Candidates which is in the records of the Candidates department (C/ATm 5). This is a series of volumes which contain entries for every person applying as a missionary. The entries are numbered and give the name, address and occupation of each candidate, names of referees, dates when seen by the committee and proceedings. They begin in 1850 and run through to 1940. The address will be the one from which he wrote the application, not necessarily his home address; the names of the referees will give further clues to his background. The dates on which he was interviewed by the committee enable you to find which volume of the committee minutes to search. There is also a series of correspondence from 1846-1865 (C/AC 1) containing letters from candidates and referees, as well as candidates’ “answers to questions” which were their application forms. For the period before 1846 this correspondence will be found incorporated in the massive series of correspondence within the British Isles (G/AC3).

Had Warren lived to retirement any letters that he wrote then to headquarters would have been entered in the General Secretary’s department’s papers. There is a very large series of incoming letters 1872-1901 (G/AC4) which has now been indexed by names, places and some subjects. This includes letters from retired missionaries, members of committees and others concerned with affairs within the British Isles as well as some correspondence within the British Isles about overseas affairs. Note that correspondence between Warren and headquarters while he was in England on furlough would normally be entered in the British Isles series of papers and not in the overseas correspondence (in his case the Japan mission series). The entries in the Register of Missionaries giving the furlough dates will give the clue as to which series to search When Warren died there would have been obituaries in the C M Gleaner and the C M Intelligencer. Had he died after retirement in the British Isles the letters reporting his death would have been in the G/AC 4 series and the letters of condolence would have been in the outgoing letter-books (G/AC 2).

There remains one other source of information about Warren which needs to be used in conjunction with the series described above. This is the card index of names.

There are several cards for Warren; two give the references for the main material in the China and Japan mission series, but usefully include references which occur in the catalogue in other than the main collection of his papers e.g. CJ/O 16 are the papers for his work in Osaka but there is also a reference to him in CJ/O 1/1E which is a paper that he read at a conference of CMS missionaries in 1878; another card gives the exact references for the G/AC 4 letters series referred to above; there is a reference to material in the General Secretary’s department for 1895-96 (G/Y/J 1/2); details of the date and page numbers for his obituaries in the C M Intelligencer and C M Gleaner ; some correspondence about a Warren Memorial in the 1930s (Q/J/A 3); some photographs of Osaka taken by him in 1875-77 (Z 15); an article on a pedestrian tour in Japan published in the C M Intelligencer 1876 p 272 and some references in the minutes of the Female Education Society (FES/AM 4,5).

From this it will be seen that the name index is valuable, but it is not a good tool with which to begin your research. You need to know how the archive series works and to have done your background study first in order to make the best use of it.

2. Suppose that you want to find out about Julia Emily Sass, a woman missionary who worked in Sierra Leone.

First look in the Register of Missionaries. The women are in List II. The information in the Register gives the place where she was domiciled at the time she applied to the Society; very occasionally it gives her place of birth and educational qualifications; date when she sailed and to which place (Kissey, Sierra Leone); dates of furloughs i.e. return on leave to England or elsewhere; date of leaving the Society’s service and whether she retired or resigned etc.; note of relationship to any other CMS missionaries; date of death.

This information will show you which mission series you will be working on: in this case Sierra Leone; and the period you need: 1848-1891.   Now you can look at the catalogue for the  Sierra Leone mission  series.  The main  entry  in  the catalogue for  Miss  Sass (C A 1/O 187/1-89) shows that there are 70 letters from her to the Secretaries in London (/1-70), a letter to Mr Jones (/71), a letter to the bishop (/72) and her quarterly and half-yearly reports (/73-89). The catalogue shows her as superintendent of the Female Institution, Freetown and in this instance Freetown was her official mission station. Note that sometimes the place listed in the catalogue is only the place from whence the letters and papers were written i.e. the missionary might be away on sick leave or attending a conference etc. (Her official mission station is the one under which her name is listed in the Society’s Proceedings (or Annual Report) ). The letters that she wrote (/1-70) would all have been seen and sent on to London by the mission secretary so you could expect to find references to her in the secretary’s correspondence (/O 3) as well as references to her in the papers of other missionaries stationed in Freetown. There will also be letters to her and about her in the main series of letter-books in the Sierra Leone series (/L 4-8). These letter-books have a name index of correspondents but obviously the index does not include people who are mentioned in the letters. There may also be letters to her in the Individual Letter-books series written from London and containing private and confidential letters to the individual missionary, usually of condolence or censure (/I 1).  There are also bundles of papers on educational and other matters relating to the organisation of local mission affairs which may shed light on her work.

For the period after 1880 you will need to work on the 1880-1934 archive series for Sierra Leone, when it was allocated to the Group 3 (Africa) Committee in London (reference G 3/A 1). In this series the letter-books (/L) continue in the same way as before and letters to Miss Sass will therefore be indexed in the volumes. The original incoming letters from Sierra Leone are filed year by year in the chronological order in which they were received at headquarters, each item being given a number, and therefore the easiest way to find the item numbers for Miss Sass’s own letters is to work your way through the précis book (/P). This contains the summarised entries in numerical order and as they are printed (later typed) they can be quickly scanned. As before there will be references to her in other people’s letters as well as items about her in the local conference and committee minutes. Such matters as change of work or station had to be approved by the local committees.

If you need to find the whereabouts of the mission station you should find it in the Missionary Atlas, which contains maps of all the mission areas showing the places at which CMS had work (and also the stations for other Protestant missionary societies). In the précis books themselves you will note that some of the items are marked “M” for “missing”. This has been done by the archivist and indicates that that item is not in the packet of papers for that year in the Sierra Leone mission series. Where possible the archive reference for its present whereabouts is entered e.g. papers used for the Centenary Review Committee are now in the General Secretary’s department’s papers. Where there is no clue as to the present whereabouts it is often because the item was in some way connected with finance and unfortunately the Finance department to which the item was transferred did not preserve routine correspondence on financial matters.

In comparison with the documentation for male missionary candidates the information for women is sparse and scattered. In order to find out more about Miss Sass before she was accepted by CMS as a missionary you need to consult the series of correspondence from 1846-1865 (C/AC 1) containing letters from candidates and referees, as well as candidates’ “answers to questions” which were their application forms.

For the period before 1846 this correspondence will be found incorporated in the massive series of correspondence within the British Isles (G/AC 3). It is also well worthwhile searching the outgoing series of letter-books for correspondence within the British Isles (G/AC 1) which often contains letters mentioning possible women missionaries. Bear in mind that before the 1890s CMS sent very few single women as missionaries and that in this respect the surviving archives of the Female Education Society (FES) and the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society (CEZMS) are far more fruitful. The CMS Register of Candidates for women which is in the records of the Candidates Department (C/ATw 5) does not begin until 1905 when the department was set up.

After her retirement any letters that Miss Sass wrote to headquarters would have been entered in the General Secretary’s department’s papers. There is a very large series of incoming letters 1872-1901 (G/AC 4) which has now been indexed by names, places and some subjects. This includes letters from retired missionaries, members of committees and others concerned with affairs within the British Isles as well as some correspondence within the British Isles about overseas affairs. Note that correspondence between Miss Sass and headquarters while she was in England on furlough would normally be entered in the British Isles series of papers and not in the overseas correspondence (in her case the Sierra Leone mission series). The entries in the Register of Missionaries giving the furlough dates will give the clue as to which series to search.

When Miss Sass died there would have been obituaries in the C M Gleaner and the C M Intelligencer.  As she died after retirement in the British Isles the letters reporting her death would be in the G/AC 4 series and the letters of condolence would be in the outgoing letter-books (G/AC 2).

There remains one other source of information about Miss Sass which needs to be used in conjunction with the series described above. This is the card index of names.

The cards for Miss Sass, in addition to references already given in this example, reveal that there are several letters from her while in England in the 1840’s to 1861, three of them giving her address (Ravenstone 1854; Orton Longueville 1861) (G/AC 3 series). In the General Secretary’s department’s papers there are also letters concerning the proposed extension of the schoolroom at the Female Institution at Freetown and the proposal that it should change its name to the Annie Walsh Girls’ School, together with a plan 1877 (G/Y/A3/1/4M; there are also references to her in the minute books of the Female Education Society (FES/AM 2, 3, 5) and an obituary notice for her in the C M Gleaner (1891 p 195).

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