Council for World Mission

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers of the Council for World Mission in its own right, from its formation in 1977, are yet to be transferred into the collection at SOAS.

London Missionary Society Home Office minutes and papers, committee minutes, correspondence, candidates papers, papers of official deputations, journals and reports, relating to the structure and administration of the Society, and mission activity overseas. Also contains personal papers of LMS missionaries, photographs and missionary portraits. Relates to the period 1775 onwards, but primarily from the foundation of the Society in 1795.

Board minutes, finance minutes, home materials and annual reports of the Commonwealth Missionary Society. The papers relate to the administration of the Commonwealth Missionary Society and its mission activity in Canada, New Zealand, the Caribbean and India.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Council for World Mission is a co-operative of 32 Christian denominations world wide, and was established in its present form in 1977. It grew out of the London Missionary Society (founded 1795), the Commonwealth (Colonial) Missionary Society (1836) and the Presbyterian Board of Missions (1847).

During the period after 1945, the work of the London Missionary Society evolved from traditional mission fieldwork to a more democratic and decentralised structure based on the development of local churches and local church leadership. This response was brought about not only in answer to so-called decolonisation but also to social and political change and demographic shifts in the post-war years. In 1966 the LMS ceased to exist as a Society and merged with the Commonwealth Missionary Society to form the Congregational Council for World Mission (CCWM). The Presbyterian Church of England Foreign Missions Committee joined with the Congregational Church of England and Wales (a constituent body of CCWM) in 1972 to form the United Reformed Church. This led to a name change in 1973 when the CCWM became the Council for World Mission (Congregational and Reformed). The CWM (Congregational and Reformed) was again restructured to create the Council for World Mission in 1977. This structure was more internationalist, reflecting greater ecumenism and church independence, and the end of Western dominance in the mission field. The CWM today is a global body, which aids resource sharing for missionary activity by the CWM community of churches.

The Colonial Missionary Society was founded in 1836 to work with British colonies, and to provide Ministers for communities in Canada and America. In 1956 it changed its name to the Commonwealth Missionary Society, merging with the LMS in 1966.


The papers of the London Missionary Society and the Commonwealth Missionary Society consist of one main accession, 1795-1940, and three accruals, 1941-1950, 1951-1960 and 1961-1970.

Conditions Governing Access

Candidates papers are available only to 1940 and certain categories of medical records are closed. Otherwise unrestricted.

Acquisition Information

CWM papers deposited on permanent loan by the Congregational Council for World Mission (later Council for World Mission) in 1974.

Other Finding Aids

An outline guide to the CWM collection was prepared by Rev. C. Stuart Craig and published by SOAS in 1973 and revised in 1980.

An unpublished draft guide to the CWM/LMS/CMS papers, 1795-1940, was prepared by Hannah Lowery in 1994.

Unpublished bound volumes of inventories to correspondence, journals and missionary deputations, 1795-c.1900, are available in the Special Collections Reading Room in the Library at SOAS.

Separated Material

Associated Material held elsewhere: Some CWM archive materials, including picture archives, are still held by the Council for World Mission, and is awaiting transfer to SOAS.

Conditions Governing Use

No publication without written permission. Apply to archivist in the first instance.


Further accruals are expected of LMS, CCWM and CWM materials.

Related Material

Related Collections at SOAS:

The Council for World Mission Library of c.13,000 books and pamphlets is held at SOAS Library.

Presbyterian Church of England Foreign Missions Committee [GB 102 PCE] and Women's Missionary Association [GB 102 PCE/WMA] papers.


Geographical Names