Commonwealth Missionary Society

Scope and Content

Records, 1836-1966, of the Commonwealth (formerly Congregational or Colonial) Missionary Society, relating to the administration of the Society and its mission activity in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, southern Africa, Jamaica, and India, and comprising Board minutes, Committee minutes, finance minutes, annual reports, and overseas correspondence. Few records survive for the 19th century, although both Board and Committee minutes date from 1836-1837.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Congregational Missionary Society was formed in 1836 with the principal aim of working to provide communities in Canada and North America with ministers. The Society changed its name to the Colonial Missionary Society soon after its formation. Its work was restricted to the British colonies, and later its work would spread out from its base in North America. The Colonial Missionary Society was linked to the Congregational churches, which is reflected in its early name, and the administrative Board or Committee was a committee of the Congregational Union [of England and Wales. These close links lessened over time, but a link was always maintained. The Society's object was 'the promotion of education and religion in the British colonies', and in 1834 the Congregational Union made representation to the London Missionary Society, who agreed to donate the sum of £1000 towards provision of ministers for the colonies. The first minister appointed was the Revd H Wilkes, who left for Montreal, Canada, in 1836. The Society grew rapidly, and by 1842 had established mission stations in Wellington, New Zealand, and Canada. By the end of the 19th century, work had expanded to include missions in South Africa, Australia and the British West Indies.

The Society was organised through a main Committee or Board, with a Treasurer and Honorary Secretary. Originally staff were unpaid, but gradually salaried officials were appointed to run the administration. The headquarters of the Colonial Missionary Society were originally at the Congregational Library, Blomfield Street, Finsbury Circus, London, but moved to the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street. Sub-committees dealt with the day-to-day administration of the Society, with a North sub-committee and a South sub-committee having geographical responsibilities for regions north and south of the equator. By the 1890s, an Eastern and a Western sub-committee had been formed to deal with stations in areas such as Jamaica, Rhodesia and South Africa. The Colonial Missionary Society became an incorporated body on 16th October 1897. In 1956 it changed its name to the Commonwealth Missionary Society, and in 1966 it merged with the London Missionary Society to form the Congregational Council for World Mission.

Arrangement

Materials are arranged as a sub-collection within the Council for World Mission archive (Ref: CWM), and the papers have accrued in a main deposit, 1836-1940, and three subsequent accruals, 1941-1950, 1951-1960, 1961-1970. The papers were rearranged in 2001.

Conditions Governing Access

Candidates files are closed for 75 years from the last date on file.

Open

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the Congregational Council for World Mission (later Council for World Mission) in 1973.

Other Finding Aids

An unpublished list to the papers is available.

Archivist's Note

Description prepared 15th May 2000, revised 27th February 2002.

Catalogued

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Copyright held by Council for World Mission unless otherwise indicated.

Related Material

The School of Oriental and African Studies holds another sub-collection of the Council for World Mission, the records of the London Missionary Society (Ref: CWM/LMS).