Archives of The Regions Beyond Missionary Union

Scope and Content

The collection consists of material relating to the mission in general and to the work in Congo, Peru, India, Nepal, and Kalimantan and Irian Jaya and includes:

  • Minutes and reports produced in the mission offices in London and in the fields
  • Correspondence with missionaries in the field, with regional and national councils, with other missions operating in the same areas, and with other evangelical agencies
  • Publications and printed material including issues of the mission's journal Regions Beyond, newsletters produced by missionaries in the field, histories of the mission and its activities, and leaflets and pamphlets produced for publicity or information
  • Material in the language or dialects of the countries in which the missionaries worked which was used for language learning or evangelical purposes
  • Lantern slides, slides, photographs and pictures
  • Audio material including a large collection of soundslides (slides with accompanying audio cassettes used in deputation work)
  • Films showing the mission's work in various fields
  • Artefacts
. The material dates mainly from 1880 onwards: most of the correspondence is from a more recent period but minutes and field reports exist from the early days of the mission. Photographs and other visual material date from the end of the 19th century but the films and audio material are more recent, the earliest film dating from the1950s. Not all audio-visual material has not been included on this catalogue (for example, lantern slides and cine-film) due to its non-numeric original system of cataloguing. However, information on this material can be sent on request.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Regions Beyond Missionary Union originated in 1873 when the East London Training Institute for Home and Foreign Missions was opened by Henry Grattan Guinness (1835-1910) in Stepney Green, Clapton, London. Guinness, a nephew of Arthur Guinness the founder of the brewing empire, had already made his name as a revivalist preacher of some note attracting crowds of up to 10,000 at a time. Grattan Guinness had been strongly influenced by James Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission, whose appeal for trained missionaries for China was one of the factors which prompted Guinness, with his wife Fanny, to establish the college. The first student, Joshua Chowriappah from India, enrolled at the beginning of 1873, by the end of that year the college had moved to bigger premises at Harley House in Bow, and later expansion included a property in Derbyshire (Cliff College 1875) and a separate college for women (Doric Lodge 1884). The college offered a mixture of theory with opportunity for practical work around the East End. Mission halls were opened for meetings and teaching, a nursing centre and medical mission were established, and the Institute purchased its own yacht, the Evangelist. No tuition fees were charged, the Institute was to be run by faith alone, it accepted students from many different nationalities and was interdenominational. By 1915 1500 missionaries had been trained and sent around the world, some joining established missions and others forming their own societies.

In 1887 Guinness handed the administration over to his son (Harry Grattan Guinness 1861-1915) but remained closely involved, travelling widely to attract support for the Institute. The Guinness family connection was to last into the 1970s through the support of the grandson of Henry Grattan Guinness, Gordon Meyer Guinness (1902-1980). The first decade of the twentieth century brought financial difficulties and disagreements about the type of training that was to be offered. Cliff College was sold, the number of students at Harley was cut and in 1915 the college closed completely. By this time, however, the work had expanded in different directions. Regions Beyond magazine was published from 1878 describing the Institute and giving news of missionaries and missions around the world. In the same year the Guinnesses and a group of friends arranged for a number of missionaries to go to Congo as the Livingstone Inland Mission and the Institute took full responsibility for the project from 1880 until 1884. In 1888 the Guinnesses launched a new mission to Central Africa, the Congo Balolo Mission. To encourage support the Regions Beyond Helpers Union was formed in 1892 and membership reached 11,000 by 1897. Expansion continued: in 1897 the Institute took responsibility for the support of a group of Harley students working in Peru and later for others in Argentina and in 1899 the first missionaries were sent to the Bihar region of India. In the same year the name of the Institute was changed to the Regions Beyond Missionary Union and the RBMU was incorporated in 1903.

Throughout the twentieth century Regions Beyond (from 1981 Horizons) published news of the work of the mission, conferences were organised, and pamphlets, books, lantern slides, photographs and films were produced to raise awareness and increase support. The financial difficulties of the early twentieth century affected all areas: the mission was able to continue to operate in Congo and India but the South American work was passed to the Evangelical Union of South America in 1911. The period after the Second World War was, however, a time of expansion with the absorption of the Peru Inland Mission (1948) and entry into Kalimantan (Borneo, 1948-1949), Irian Jaya (1954) and Nepal (1954, with the United Mission to Nepal).

Despite, and in some ways because of, the successes of the mission, some began to question its role and purpose, especially in relation to the indigenous churches and other organisations. The wide diversity of fields stretched resources and administration and the idea of co-operating with other similar agencies was increasingly proposed. The North American councils (which had met as separate bodies since 1948) sometimes took a different view on these and other issues and in 1979 the London based RBMU UK split from its overseas councils, the latter operating as RBMU International. In the UK the mission became more involved in joint projects and in 1980 moved to office premises shared with other agencies. It still sought ways to maintain its own identity and considered expanding to new areas such as Pakistan, Thailand, and the Philippines. From the late 1980s, however, it became increasingly clear that it was no longer suitable for the mission to continue as it was. In 1990, after negotiations with other bodies, the work in each area was passed to new or existing agencies, although some missionaries remained with RBMU until 1991.


Before the material was presented to the Centre it was partially sorted and arranged by the mission. This arrangement has been largely kept as reflecting the order in which the records were created and the different sections of the mission's activities. The collection is divided into categories by country and divided within these categories by type of material.

Access Information

Contact the Centre for the Study of World Christianity for details on access restrictions for researchers. On the request of the mission, material after a certain date, usually 1976, has been classed as restricted. Most material that is closed to researchers has not been included in this catalogue, since a non-numerical system has been employed to catalogue it.

It is essential to arrange an appointment in advance to view the archive in order that someone can be available to help. Please contact us by email at Telephone the Centre on: 0131 650 8900. Postal address: Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh School of Divinity, New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh, EH1 2LX.

Other Finding Aids

An electronic list of the items in the archive is available on request. This can also be supplied in paper form.

Archivist's Note

The collection was originally catalogued, researched and described by Caroline Brown in 2001. This catalogue was entered into the Archives Hub by Louise Williams in August 2012.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction of materials (for example by digital camera) is free for private research and educational use, although we ask researchers to sign an agreement. Please contact us for enquiries on using the material in a commercial setting, for which there will be a fee. Contact us by email at Telephone the Centre on: 0131 650 8900. Postal address: Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh School of Divinity, New College, Mound Place, Edinburgh, EH1 2LX.

Custodial History

The collection was deposited with the Centre for the Study of World Christianity in 1991 by representatives of Regions Beyond Missionary Union.


We expect that no more material will be added to this archive in the forseeable future.

Related Material

Some related material remains in the hands of the Guinness and Kumm families. Some of the Guinness material (including early issues of Regions Beyond were deposited at All Nations Bible College, Ware. RBMU International merged with World Team in 1995 and their offices in America and Canada hold RBMU records. Collections relating to individual missionaries can be found in the Banks photograph collection at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and material relating to RBMU work in Congo or created by RBMU missionaries there can be found among the papers of the Anti-Slavery Society in London and Oxford. The archives of the United Mission to Nepal are at the Centre for the Study of World Christianity. In Congo the Centre Aequatoria has a large collection of documents and pamphlets, including schoolbooks and religious textbooks written by RBMU missionaries.

The Centre for the Study of World Christianity also holds the archive of Latin Link, the more recent name for the Evangelical Union of South America which took over the Regions Beyond Missionary Union's South American responsibilities in 1911.


Three fairly recent histories of the mission as a whole have been published: For Such A Time (Elizabeth Pritchard, Eastbourne: Victory Press, 1973); The Cloud Moves (Kenneth Holmes, London: RBMU, 1974); and Drumbeats That Changed the World, (Joseph Conley, Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2000). Michelle Guinness's The Guinness Legend (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1989) gives a detailed account of the origins of the mission and the early years.