Conference of British Missionary Societies Archive

Scope and Content

The Conference of British Missionary Societies archive, predominantly 1912-1977, relating to administration, the work of other missionary bodies, and issues affecting missionary work.

Records, 1901-1978, of the Standing Committee (Ref: S) 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.

Records, 1907-1977, of the Home Council comprise minutes and administrative papers (Ref: H); records, 1926-1975, relating to audio-visual aids, including minutes, administrative papers, and reviews of films; 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; records, 1921-1977, relating to recruitment and training of missionaries; records, 1946-1970, of the Schools Committee, relating to speakers, exhibitions and publicity material; records, 1939-1961, of the Youth Committee; 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.

Area files, including correspondence with National Christian Councils (N.C.C.), 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, 1915-1977, 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/AF); 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, 1921-1977, touching on work in Muslim countries, political events and refugee issues (Ref: N); records of the West Indies Committee and papers relating to missionary work in the Caribbean, 1938-1975, touching on social and economic development (Ref: W/AM); 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, 1872-1979, 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/AS); and records relating to the Pacific, 1965-1977(Ref: P)

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, 1920-1977 (Ref: L); records of the Medical Advisory Board and papers on medical missionary work in Africa, India and China, 1928-1978 (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, 1938-1978 (Ref: C).

The archives of related organisations (Ref: X), including Association of Medical Officers of Missionary Societies, 1904-1939; National Laymen's Missionary Movement, 1904-1957; World Christian Books, 1952-1971; Margaret Wrong Memorial Fund; 1948-1980; Brussels Bureau, 1956-1957; Christian Literature Society for China, 1899-1937; and Commonwealth Trust Ltd / Commonwealth Education and Welfare Trust, 1912-1987.

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.

The CBMS was not itself a missionary society, but acted as a co-ordinating body for the work of British missionary organisations in Britain and overseas. It held an annual conference, and a standing committee (later council) met quarterly.

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.

In 1977 the CBMS became a division of the British Council of Churches (BCC), and it is now known as the Churches' Commission on Mission (CCOM).


The Conference of British Missionary Societies archive is divided into three deposits: First Deposit (1912-1960); Second Deposit (1961-1970); and Third Deposit (1971-1977).

Access Information

Files less than 30 years old are not available to readers


Acquisition Information

The material was deposited by the Conference for World Mission between 1977 and 1993.

Other Finding Aids

SOAS Archives Catalogue lists records for the period 1912-1960. Further paper lists are available for CBMS records covering the period 1961-1970 and 1971-1977

Alternative Form Available

First deposit (1912-1960) published on microfiche by IDC Publishers.


Accruals expected

Related Material

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds records of the Christian Literature Bureau for Africa and its succession by 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).