Scottish Missionary Society

Reference code(s): GB 0233 MSS 8012-8014, 8983-8989
Held at: National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division
Domain: archival
Title: Scottish Missionary Society
Date(s) of contents: 1796-1851
Level of description: Sub-fonds
Extent and medium: c12 volumes of archival material


Name of creator(s):
Edinburgh Missionary Society
Scottish Missionary Society
Scottish Society

Administrative/Biographical history: The foundation of the Baptist Missionary Society and the London Missionary Society in the late eighteenth century helped to solidify the call for the formation of missionary societies in Scotland; 1796 saw the organization of the Scottish Society (known later as the Edinburgh Missionary Society, and from 1818 as the Scottish Missionary Society) and the Glasgow Society for Foreign Missions. 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).

Whilst the work of the Scottish Society and the Glasgow Society continued, growing pressure mounted for the founding of a missionary society by the established Church of Scotland. Accordingly, in 1824 the Assembly of the Church of Scotland appointed a committee to inaugurate foreign mission; this led, in 1829, to the sending of Alexander Duff (1806-1878) to Calcutta, to take over the headmastership of an educational institution. Subsequently in 1835, the new Church Mission took over the Bombay mission which had been established by the Scottish Society in 1823.

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 had been terminated by the Russian government in 1835.

Custodial history:

Immediate source of acquisition:


Scope and content/abstract: The collection comprises both home and overseas archives of the Scottish Missionary Society, the former including letterbooks (including those of the Scottish Missionary Society's secretary, William Brown), and the latter being made up of correspondence from missionaries in the Society's fields of the Crimea, Jamaica, Astrakhan, and Western India, along with material from the Society's Bombay Corresponding Committee (including correspondence of its secretary, the Reverend Joseph Laurie) and papers on education in the Caribbean.

System of arrangement: The collection is a subfonds of the Church of Scotland Board of World Mission, and is divided into a home and an overseas series. The home series is subdivided into letter books of the Society's Secretary (188-1851), Secretary copies (c1820-1837) and correspondence and papers (1796-1841). The overseas series is subdivided into material relating to the Bombay Corresponding Committee (1829-1832), papers on education in the West Indies (1835-1838) and correspondence with missionaries based in the Crimea (1820-1832), Jamaica (1824-1838), Astrakhan (1821-1836), Western India (1822-1835) and elsewhere (1820-1837)).


Language: English

Conditions governing access: Available for consultation by serious researchers.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids: Catalogues as cited in Publication note.


Related material: The Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World at the University of Edinburgh holds:
Reports of the Scottish Missionary Society (1824-1843).
The Scottish Missionary Register containing the proceedings of the Scottish Missionary Society and other societies for the Propagation of the Gospel at Home and Abroad (1820-1843, incomplete).

Refer also to the National Library of Scotland description for the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland.

Publication note:
National Library of Scotland, Catalogue of manuscripts acquired since 1925; manuscripts 7530-8022: Scottish foreign mission records 1827-1929 vol VI (Edinburgh: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1984).
National Library of Scotland, Catalogue of manuscripts acquired since 1925; manuscripts 8023-9500, charters and other formal documents 7637-8500 vol VII (Edinburgh: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1989).


Date(s) of descriptions: 2nd May 2002

Ancient religions
Educational missionary work
Missionary societies
Missionary work
Religious activities
Religious groups
Religious organizations

Personal names
Brown | William | secretary of the Scottish Missionary Society
Laurie | Joseph | secretary of the Bombay Corresponding Committee of the Scottish Missionary Society

Corporate names
Edinburgh Missionary Society
Scottish Missionary Society
Scottish Society

Eastern Europe
South Asia