Jesuits in Britain Archives

Reference code(s): GB 1093 Jesuits in Britain Archives
Held at: Jesuits in Britain Archives
Domain: archival
Title: Jesuits in Britain Archives
Date(s) of contents: c 1772-1934
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium: Substantial (unquantified) archival material including photographs and audiotapes; official publications.


Name of creator(s):
Society of Jesus, British Province
Society of Jesus, English Province

Administrative/Biographical history: The Society of Jesus was founded by St Ignatius Loyola in Paris in 1534 and received papal approval in 1540. The aims of the order were twofold; to work for post-Reformation clerical reform, and to undertake missionary work amongst the heathen. The English Province of the Society became an independent Province in 1623 (Wales came under its jurisdiction from this time, as did Scotland from 1815).

The tradition of British Jesuit missionary activity dates from the 1630s, when English Jesuits were deployed in Maryland. The tradition was broadened, following British Catholic emancipation in 1829; for instance, in 1834 English Jesuits took over the Catholic mission at Calcutta (this association ended in the late 1840s), and other missions were established in the Indian subcontinent during the 19th century, including sites at Bombay, Madras, Karachi, Travancore, Poona and Cannanore.

Various missions in the Caribbean and Central and South America were established during the mid 19th century. A mission consisting of one Jesuit lasted in Jamaica from 1837 until 1893, when its jurisdiction was transferred to the Maryland and New York Province. Attempts to establish a mission in Honduras were made as early as 1821, but an official appointment was not made there until 1853; again, this English province was passed to an American Province (Missouri), in 1893. In 1857 the Jesuit mission in British Guiana (now Guyana) was assigned to the English province. British Jesuits were also present in Barbados and Belize.

Whilst not a strictly missionary undertaking, British Jesuits maintained a Mediterranean influence through their work in Malta during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the wake of the Napoleonic wars, the Catholic Church in Malta, along with the Society of Jesus, called upon British Jesuit educationalists to set up higher education colleges, as a means of diffusing the conflicting political, religious and cultural interests of the British and the Italians. These ran from around 1848 to 1907 (with an intermission between 1858 and 1877; property rights continued until 1928).

In Africa, English Jesuits established, in 1877, the Zambesi mission (in what is today Zambia and Zimbabwe). Today, the British Province has two dependent regions, Guyana and South Africa, and many British-born Jesuits can still be found at work in Zimbabwe.

Custodial history: Some material was originally housed at the Jesuit Stonyhurst College in Lancashire.

Immediate source of acquisition:


Scope and content/abstract: Missionary-related holdings in the archives of the Society of Jesus, British Province are substantial but currently unquantified. They include numerous photographs, and some taped interviews relating to the African and Guyanan missions, as well as a complete run of the publications of the English, latterly British, Province, which contain articles on its missions and eulogies and obituaries of missionaries. The earliest missionary-related documents (relating to Maryland and New York) date from the 17th century. Specific holdings include:
17th century-1835: American archival material, including letters from Maryland and Pennsylvania.
1821-1897: archival material relating to Honduras, including correspondence, statistics and sketchmaps.
1832-1911: archival material relating to India (chiefly on Calcutta, including correspondence to and from this mission, lists of personnel, and accounts and financial details).
1837-1901: correspondence and a diary relating to Jamaica.
1848-1928: correspondence, reports and diaries (official and personal) relating to higher education colleges in Malta.
1854-1894: material relating to Belize.
1857-present: material relating to Barbados.
1857-present:(two files) letters and reports (including historical notes, and personal papers of the early 20th century missionary Father Cuthbert Cary-Elwes) from Guyana.
1878-1934: archival material from Zambesi, including statistical data, and material from pioneer missionaries such as Father Peter Prestage (diary (1882-83), Henry Schomberg Kerr (letters and journals), and Augustus Henry Law (letters, journals and diaries 1845-1880).
1894- present: archival material relating to South Africa.

System of arrangement: Official documents are filed under the name of the country or mission. Personal papers are filed by author.


Language: English.

Conditions governing access: A forty year closure period applies to archival material; official documents must be forty years old, and forty years must have elapsed since the death of depositing Jesuits before their personal papers may be consulted.

Conditions governing reproduction: For further details, apply to the Archivist.

Finding aids: Card catalogue.


Related material: Additional material relating to Jesuit work in Jamaica, India, Zimbabwe and South Africa can be found in the archives of these regions and provinces, and in the Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu in Rome.

Publication note:
Reverend Francis O. Edwards, ‘The archives of the English Province of the Society of Jesus at Farm Street, London: Part 1’, Catholic Archives, 1 (1981), 20-25.
Reverend Francis O. Edwards, ‘The archives of the English Province of the Society of Jesus at Farm Street, London: Part 2’, Catholic Archives, 2 (1982), 37-45.
Father Thomas M McCoog, A guide to Jesuit archives (St Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2001).


Note: Compiled using:
The website of the British Province of the Society of Jesus.
Reverend Francis O. Edwards, ‘The archives of the English Province of the Society of Jesus at Farm Street, London: Part 2’, Catholic Archives, 2 (1982), 37-45.
Missionary encounters: sources and issues, ed. by Robert A. Bickers and Rosemary Seton (Richmond: Curzon Press, 1996).

Date(s) of descriptions: August 2002.

Educational missionaries
Educational missionary work
Financial administration
Financial statements
Higher education institutions
Magnetic tape recordings
Mission administration
Mission policy
Missionary societies
Missionary work
Ordained missionaries
Religious activities
Religious history
Religious movements
Religious organizations
Religous groups
Roman Catholic missionary societies
Roman Catholics
Sound recordings
Visual materials

Personal names
Cary-Elwes | Cuthbert | 1867-1945 | Jesuit priest and missionary in Guyana
Kerr | Henry Schomberg | 1838-1895 | Jesuit and sailor
Law | Augustus Henry | 1833-1881 | Jesuit priest and missionary in Zambia
Prestage | Peter | Jesuit priest and missionary in Zambia

Corporate names
Society of Jesus, British Province
Society of Jesus, English Province

Central America
North America
South Africa
South America
South Asia
Southern Africa
Western Europe