Baptist Missionary Society
Name of creator(s):
Administrative/Biographical history: The Baptist Missionary Society (BMS; originally known as the Particular Baptist Missionary Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen, and since the year 2000 as BMS World Mission) was established in 1792, largely at the instigation of the Northamptonshire Baptist Association. It was the first Protestant society to be founded specifically for the purpose of overseas mission, and its earliest mission was that founded by William Carey (1761-1834), Joshua Marshman (1768-1837) and William Ward (1769-1823) in Serampore, Bengal (now West Bengal, India), in 1793 (the Serampore Mission separated from its parent society in 1827, reuniting in 1837). During the nineteenth century it established missions in the West Indies (Jamaica 1813) and played an active part in the abolition of slavery. Missions were subsequently established in Ceylon (1830), the Cameroons (Fernando Po 1841), Europe (Brittany 1843), China (1845), the Congo (1873). In 1891 the society merged with the General Baptist Missionary Society (founded 1816) to become the Baptist Missionary Society (a title which the 1792 society had used informally for much of the nineteenth century), and the pioneering work continued, with an emphasis in all mission fields on education, translation, publication, social and medical welfare, alongside pastoral and evangelistic work.
An important aspect of the society's work was the establishment of subgroups and auxiliaries. These included the Bible Translation Society, which was formed in 1840 to act as a support to the BMS, and which in 1920 became the Bible Translation and Literature Auxiliary. Another auxiliary of note was the Baptist Zenana Mission (BZM; full title 'Ladies' Association for the Support of Zenana Work and Biblewomen in India, in connection with the Baptist Missionary Society') which was formed in 1867; its medical mission work passed to the Medical Mission Auxiliary in 1902, and in 1914 the BZM became the Women's Missionary Association (WMA; also known as the Women's Committee) of the BMS but retained its separate committee and funds (its finances were merged with those of the BMS in 1925). The Medical Mission Auxiliary had been formed in 1901 in connection with the BMS and the BZM; it lost its independence in 1925 when it became the Medical Committee of the BMS. The Baptist Girls' Auxiliary was formed in 1903 and continued strongly up to 1953, but by then the Secretariat was reduced to one and so gradually the work merged with the youth work of the Society.
A change in the role of the BMS after 1914 was reflected in the progressive devolution of authority from mission to church, often during times of great political upheaval. In its missionary work in Brazil, commenced in 1953, and more generally in all its work since the 1960s, the BMS adapted to the changing needs of churches in the mission fields in the face of global ecumenical developments, and this was reflected in the society's change of name, in 2000, to BMS World Mission.
Custodial history: Due to destruction in 1940 all original provenance of the documents is lost.
Immediate source of acquisition: The archives of the Baptist Missionary Society were deposited with the Angus Library, Regent's Park College, in 1989.
CONTENT AND STRUCTURE
Scope and content/abstract: The collection includes:
OVERSEAS MAIN SERIES (for all mission fields, refer to the Committee Minutes series for relevant minutes).
Australasia (correspondence and papers from Australia and New Zealand) 1868-1930 (1 part box).
Bangladesh (correspondence, reports and papers) 1932-1962 (3 boxes).
Brazil (correspondence of the Reverend Arthur Elder) 1948-1961 (1 file).
Canada (correspondence and reports) 1844-1962 (2 part boxes).
China (correspondence of missionaries and associated papers, papers relating to the Secretariat, associated Mission Treasurers, missionaries' allowances, property matters, medical reports, hospitals, higher education colleges, the Inter-Provincial Council, the Chinese Christian Literature Council, and miscellaneous papers and reports), 1867-1964 (78 boxes).
Japan (correspondence) 1878-1901 (1 part box).
South East Asia (correspondence of missionaries: 1 box):
Sri Lanka (correspondence of missionaries, material relating to the Ceylon Secretariat, minutes of the Colombo Station Committee, reports of the Ceylon Baptist Council, and other miscellaneous material) 1807-1962 (14 boxes and 1 volume).
West Indies (reports, deeds, extracts from letters and theses) 1800-1947 (c 13 boxes, 21 items, 1 volume and one shelf).
RECORDS OF SUB-GROUPS
Home Preparation Union (minute book) 1915-1938 (1 volume).
Baptist Zenana Mission (minute books (BZM and WMA), agenda books, reports, papers and Baptist Zenana Movement Papers) 1852-1961 (52 volumes and c 1.5 boxes).
Bible Translation Society (miscellaneous papers and letter book, minutes) 1837-1947 (2 boxes and 6 volumes).
Girls' Auxiliary (minutes, correspondence, paper and history) 1905-1960s (c 2 boxes).
Medical Mission Auxiliary (minutes of committees) 1910-1962 (20 volumes).
Women's Missionary Association (minutes, accounts and agendas) 1915-1961 (17 volumes and 1 part box).
London Baptist Missionary Union (minutes and attendence book) 1913-1962 (10 boxes and 5 volumes).
PAPERS OF PROMINENT MISSIONARIES AND OFFICERS
The archives contain the papers of many significant individuals, including (with their area of activity):
William Carey (India, including botanical survey), John Clarke (Jamaica and Cameroon), William Knibb (West Indies), Joshua Marshman (India), James Phillippo (West Indies), Timothy Richard (China, including linguistic work), Alfred Saker (Cameroon), John Wenger (India), William Ward (India),
Photographs (a small selection of which are included in the Mundus Gallery).
System of arrangement: At the time of writing (September 2002), the BMS archive is in the process of being rearranged. Due to destruction in 1940 all original provenance of the documents was lost.
Missionary corrrespondence is arranged by continent/country, and therein alphabetically by name of missionary. Letters to missionaries from the secretaries of the BMS are kept with the appropriate missionaries' papers, but letters or documents prepared by the secretary and sent to recipients other than missionaries are kept in the Home Section even though they may concern a foreign mission field.
Zenana missionary correspondence is included under the country concerned, rather than listed separately.
Home correspondence is arranged roughly chronologically.
ACCESS AND USE
Language: Mostly English, plus many others including Bengali, Chinese, Dutch, Hindi, Latin, Russian and Syriac.
Conditions governing access:
Conditions governing reproduction:
Physical characteristics: Many documents very fragile, therefore consultation of microfilm copy is often preferred.
Finding aids: Printed catalogues of missionary correspondence of missionaries dead or retired before 1914.
Related material: The collection is supplemented by other Baptist and Baptist Missionary Society material in the Angus Library, such as the Jamaica and Cameroons Missionary Papers, the John Clarke Papers (Acc 148) which consists of a file of correspondence (1841-1847) relating to the London Baptist Mission in Bioko and Cameroon, and the Fenn Papers (D/FEN) which consists of correspondence relating to the abolition of slavery in Jamaica, and the Duncan Papers which relate to BMS work in China in the late nineteenth century.
Copies: Microfilm of archives of the Baptist Missionary Society is available from the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives. Available microfilm consists of: minutes of the Society (1792-1914), minutes of Society committees (1793-1914), home office correspondence (1792-1914), and missionary journals and correspondence (1792-1914).
Date(s) of descriptions: September 2002.