Conference of British Missionary Societies

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Archives of the Conference of British Missionary Societies, largely dating from 1912-1970, including some material dating from 1872-1973, relating to administration, the work of other missionary bodies, and issues affecting missionary work.

Records, 1901-1970, of the Standing Committee and other committees comprise minutes, annual reports, and administrative papers and correspondence, including some relating to the CBMS constitution, finance, staffing, World War Two, and broadcasting, and papers relating to various other missionary bodies, including the Foreign Missions Conference of North America and National Council of Churches in Christ in the USA, 1893-1960 (Ref: S).

Records, 1907-1968, of the Home Council comprise minutes and administrative papers (Ref: H); records, 1926-1960, relating to audio-visual aids, including minutes, administrative papers, and reviews of films (Ref: H/AVA); records, 1920-1944, of the Far and Near Press Bureau, with detailed information on numerous individual missionaries and missionary issues, including BBC talks, publications, manuscripts and matching press cuttings, and obituaries (arranged chronologically), biographical files and photographs of people and regions (arranged alphabetically), and background information on various areas (Ref: H/PB); records, 1921-1960, relating to recruitment and training of missionaries (Ref: H/RT); records, 1946-1965, of the Schools Committee, relating to speakers, exhibitions and publicity material (Ref: H/Sc); records, 1939-1961, of the Youth Committee (Ref: H/Y); records, 1907-1968, of the United Council for Missionary Education and Edinburgh House Press, including minutes, finance papers, records of publications and papers relating to production, stock and publicity, book reviews, correspondence, and publications on missionaries and missionary subjects (Ref: H/UP).

Area files, including correspondence with national Christian councils, overseas governments and overseas churches and churchmen, comprise minutes of the Africa Committee and papers on missionary work in countries in Central, East, Southern and West Africa, 1915-1960, touching on educational work, political events and decolonization, African customs, Islam, social problems, and interethnic relations, including papers of the Advisory Committee on Education in the Colonies (including areas outside Africa), 1927-1961 (Ref: A); records of the Committee on Work among Jews and Near and Middle East Committee and papers relating to missionary work in Middle Eastern countries and Egypt, 1921-1967, touching on work among Moslems, political events and refugee issues (Ref: N); records of the West Indies Committee and papers relating to missionary work in the Caribbean, 1938-1968, touching on social and economic development (Ref: W); records of the Asia Committee and papers on missionary work, including educational and medical work, in China, India, and other parts of East, South, and South East Asia, 1872-1964, including political events, the Sino-Japanese War and World War Two, the development of Communism in China, and political events and self-government in India (Ref: E).

Records on literature and medical work comprise records of the Christian Literature Committee and Christian Literature Council, including finance and policy papers, and papers relating to literacy and literature in Central, East, Southern and West Africa, East, South, and South East Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean and Latin America, 1920-1968 (Ref: L); records of the Medical Advisory Board and papers on medical missionary work in Africa, India and China, 1928-1963 (Ref: M).

Records on co-operative action with other missionary bodies relate to the World Missionary Conference and its Continuation Committee, 1907-1929, the International Missionary Council, 1917-1973, World Council of Churches, 1945-1960, and British Council of Churches, 1938-1960 (Ref: C).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Conference of Missionary Societies in Great Britain and Ireland, commonly known as the Conference of British Missionary Societies (CBMS), was founded in 1912 with a membership of more than 40 Protestant missionary societies. It grew out of the Continuation Committee established as a result of the World Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh in 1910, which aimed to encourage the foundation of national co-operative councils for mission. For many years the CBMS shared premises (acquired in 1918), Edinburgh House (in Belgravia, near Sloane Square, London), with the Continuation Committee, which became known as the International Missionary Council in 1921. The CBMS was not itself a missionary society, but its archive documents how home missionary organisations co-operated with contacts abroad, show the public face of missionary activity, and also offer evidence on contemporary social and political, as well as religious, events. It held an annual conference, and a standing committee (later council) met quarterly. There were also specialized committees. In 1977 the CBMS became a division of the British Council of Churches and it is now known as the Churches' Commission on Mission. For further information see J T Hardyman and R K Orchard, Two Minutes from Sloane Square: a Brief History of the Conference of Missionary Societies in Great Britain and Ireland 1912-1977(CBMS, London, 1977).

Conditions Governing Access


Acquisition Information

Deposited 1977-1993.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlists (including a detailed list for the Far and Near Press Bureau) and database.

Alternative Form Available

Published on microfiche by IDC Publishers.

Archivist's Note

Description based on that originally compiled for the AIM25 Project in 2002. Revised by Rosemary Seton, Archivist, SOAS

Conditions Governing Use

No publication without prior written permission. Apply to SOAS Archives in first instance.

Related Material

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds records of the Christian Literature Bureau for Africa and its successor, the International Committee on Christian Literature for Africa (part of the International Missionary Council) (Ref: ICCLA); joint archives of the International Missionary Council/Conference of British Missionary Societies relating to co-operative missionary endeavours in Africa (original files) and India (microfiche copy) (Ref: IMC/CBMS); and microfiche copy of the archives of the International Missionary Council (Ref: IMC).