Church of Scotland Board of World Mission

Reference code(s): GB 0233 MSS 7530-8022, 8942-89
Held at: National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division
Domain: archival
Title: Church of Scotland Board of World Mission
Date(s) of contents: 1822-1975
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium:


Name of creator(s):
Church of Scotland Board of World Mission
Edinburgh Missionary Society
Scottish Missionary Society
Scottish Society Berliner Missionsgesellschaft? East Africa Scottish Mission?

Administrative/Biographical history: The history of the overseas missionary work of Scottish societies and churches during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is a complex one, informed by the convoluted nature of Scottish church organisation during this period.

The earliest work was carried out by the Glasgow and Edinburgh Missionary Societies, both of which had been founded in 1796 (the latter changing its name in 1818 to the Scottish Missionary Society). These Societies represented both the Church of Scotland and the Secession Church, and initiated evangelization in West Africa, the Caribbean (from 1800), the Caucasus (from 1802), India (from 1823). As the nineteenth century progressed their work was gradually taken over by the better-supported Foreign Missions Committees of the Scottish churches.

In 1824, following decades of campaigning by evangelicals and advocates such as George Hamilton and Dr Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) the established Church of Scotland resolved to enter the missionary field by appointing a committee to inaugurate overseas mission work. This resulted, in 1829, in the assignment of the first Church of Scotland missionary to India.

Following the Disruption of the established church in 1843, the newly established breakaway Free Church of Scotland formed a Foreign Missions Board which in 1845 assumed responsibility for the South African missions of the Glasgow Missionary Society. Similarly, the Scottish Missionary Society's Jamaica and Calabar (Nigeria) missions were in 1847 taken over by the newly formed United Presbyterian Church. The Caucasus mission of the Scottish Missionary Society had been terminated by the Russian government in 1835.

The 1843 Disruption resulted in the loss from the Church of Scotland missions of both personnel (to the newly established churches) and zeal, but after a period of retrenchment advance was made again, in the Punjab (1857), in Poona (1864), in the Eastern Himalayas (1870), at Blantyre in Malawi (1876), at Yichang in China (1878), at Kikuyu in Kenya (1901; taking over the work of the East Africa Scottish Mission) and at Iringa in Tanzania (1920; taking over the work of the Berliner Missionsgesellschaft).

In the meantime, other Scottish missionary societies were involved with similarly pioneering activities. For example, in 1876 the Free Church of Scotland merged with the Reformed Presbyterian Church, assuming responsibility for the latter's mission in Vanuatu. In 1900 the Free Church of Scotland merged with the United Presbyterian Church to form the United Free Church; the two Foreign Missions Secretaries became Joint Secretaries, each retaining responsibility for the same mission fields as previously. In 1919 the United Free Church became responsible for the Ghanese mission of the Basler Evangelische Missiongesellschaft, and went on, in 1929, to unite with the Church of Scotland; prior to this, local cooperation resulted in the formation of joint colleges in Madras and Calcutta.

The type of missionary work undertaken by the various Scottish missionary socities was greatly varied. For example, the work pioneered in India for the Church of Scotland by Alexander Duff was firmly rooted in education; African missions such as the Calabar Mission of the United Presbyterian Church and the Blantyre Mission of the Church of Scotland had strong medical emphases. An ongoing strength of Scottish missionary work in many locations was women's, including zenana, work. The Scottish Association of Ladies for the Advancement of Female Education in Western India was formed in 1837 and sent out their first single woman missionary in 1839. Auxiliaries were formed in towns throughout Scotland with independent Associations being set up in Glasgow and Greenock. Despite early difficulties educational work for girls was extended from Bombay and Poona to Calcutta. The Disruption of 1843 meant that a number of officers of the Church of Scotland, half its membership and all but one of its agents, transferred their allegiance to the Free Church. Work resumed though, for a time, few agents of the Association were actually members of the Church of Scotland. Schools for girls were next opened in Madras and Ceylon [Sri Lanka] while during the 1860s zenana work was developed. During the 1870s work became more organised with an annual Womenís Conference during the sitting of the General Assembly and the Associationís Annual Report being presented to the General Assembly. Work was expanded to other fields of the Church of Scotlandís Mission and work by female medical missionaries was begun. In 1883 the Association changed its name to The Church of Scotland Ladiesí Association for Foreign Missions, including zenana work. Since 1893 it has been known as The Church of Scotland Womenís Association for Foreign Missions.

See also:
Robert W Weir, A history of the foreign missions of the Church of Scotland (Edinburgh: R. & R. Clark, 1900).
James Horne Morrison, The Scottish churches' work abroad (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1927).
Annie S. Swan, Seed time and harvest: the story of the hundred years' work of the Women's Foreign Mission of the Church of Scotland (London: T. Nelson & Sons, 1937).
Elizabeth Glendinning Kirkwood Hewat, Vision and achievement, 1796-1956. A history of the foreign missions of the churches united in the Church of Scotland (London: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1960).
One aim: overseas work of the Church of Scotland (Edinburgh: Overseas Council, 1972).

Custodial history: A considerable quantity of material was lost during World War Two. Since 1953 the National Library of Scotland has been the repository for the records of the Church of Scotland's Board of World Mission. The Scottish Foreign Missions collection contains the surviving foreign mission records to 1929 (with a few documents of the early 1930s) of the churches which in that year reunited to form the Church of Scotland, viz. the (Established) Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland, the latter itself the product of the union in 1900 between the Free Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church.

Immediate source of acquisition: MS 7530 was deposited at the National Library of Scotland by the Foreign Mission Committee of the Church of Scotland in 1953.


Scope and content/abstract: This major archive has global coverage. It gathers most of the surviving records of the constituent foreign mission organisations of all the Presbyterian churches that have been united since 1929 within the present Church of Scotland. Scottish Foreign Missions: The bulk of the material consists of the letter-books of the conveners, secretaries, and clerks of the various Foreign Mission Committees, containing their letters both to missionaries and to supporters and others in Britain. Incoming correspondence, mainly from missionaries, is the next largest group. Finally there are a few minute-books (but the main series of minute-books of the various Foreign Mission Committees are MS.Dep.298), account-books, diaries, volumes of newspaper cuttings, and other miscellanea.

Principal publications include:
Annual reports 1944-1964 (33 volumes).

System of arrangement: While the letter-books are generally in continuous series, with only a few gaps, the incoming letters are preserved only for brief periods. The collection has been arranged by denomination (because of the office arrangements of the Untied Free Church, the Free and United Presbyterian Churches had to be regarded as continuing separately); within this, Womenís Foreign Mission papers have been separated from those of the Foreign Mission Committees. The incoming correspondence is arranged chronologically under the mission field of origin. As the collection relates entirely to the Colonial period in Africa, the Colonial names have been used throughout.


Language: *

Conditions governing access: *

Conditions governing reproduction: Copies supplied by the Library must not be reproduced (eg in a publication, or by electronic means or broadcasting) without permission to reproduce the item first having been obtained from the Library in writing. Refer to the relevent web page of the National Library of Scotland for more details.

Finding aids: *


Related material:
St Colm's International House holds the St Colm's Collection which includes material relating to the Women's Missionary College founded by the Church of Scotland in 1894.


Date(s) of descriptions: July 2002.


Personal names

Corporate names
Church of Scotland Board of World Mission

South Asia