Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)CMS/B
TitleForeign (later Overseas) Division
DescriptionThe records of the Foreign Division arise from the work of the departments at CMS headquarters that were responsible at first for the administration of overseas work and later, as the churches developed and gained independence, dealt with the main bulk of the day-to-day correspondence with those churches and countries. Some of the records cover more than one mission area; the majority of the records comprise separate sequences of incoming and outgoing papers kept for each mission area known as the 'Overseas (Missions) Series'.

The catalogue for the Overseas (Missions) Series 1803-1934 can be searched using the online archive catalogue. The online catalogue should be used alongside two paper handlists which are available for consultation in the library: the Catalogue of the Papers of the Foreign Divison 1799-1949 and the Catalogue of the Papers of the Overseas Division 1935-1959.
Access StatusOpen
Administrative HistoryIn 1951 work in mainland China was closed and in 1957 CMS amalgamated with the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society (working mainly in India). As a result, the work-load of the East and West Asia Secretaries was so uneven that it was decided to merge the two committees. From September 1957 there was one Asia Committee served by a Secretary for Asia and Egypt.
The two committees, Africa and Asia, continued to be responsible for the administration of the overseas work of the Society until 1973. A working group to examine the committee structure of CMS was set up in 1969 and its proposals for re-organisation were approved by General Committee and brought into effect in September 1972. Under that re-organisation a new committee, the Mission Operations Committee (from 1980 Mission Overseas Committee) was charged with the overall direction of the Society's work overseas.
In 1981-1983 the Society re-organised the entire pattern of committees, changing from a hierarchical to a grid system. The Mission Overseas Committee met for the last time in May 1981 and its work was replaced by Regional Groups each of which supported a Regional Secretary.
Custodial HistoryCatalogued by Rosemary Keen; deposited in the Library of the University of Birmingham, 1989.
CopiesMany of the records of the CMS Foreign Division have been microfilmed by Adam Matthew Publications and the films are available for consultation in Cadbury Research Library and elsewhere. In addition to the microfilm, a few items have been digitized by Adam Matthew Digital and can be seen online by members of subscribing institutions at

Records from the Overseas (Missions) Series 1803-1934 (CMS/B/OMS) which have been microfilmed:
Africa missions: all (A1; A2; A3; A4; A5; A6; A7; A8; A9; A10; A11; E; S; SN)
Canada missions: all (C1; C2)
China missions: all (CH; CH1; CH2; CH3; CH4; CH5)
India missions: part: India General 1811-1815 (I - part); North India 1815-1880 part only (I1 - part); South India 1815-1880 part only (I2 - part)
Japan mission: all (J)
Mauritius, Madagascar and Seychelles missions: all (MA)
Palestine mission: all (P)
West Indies mission: all (W)
Where a microfilm copy is available, further details are given in the sub-sub-sub fonds level entries of the online catalogue (see, for example, CMS/B/OMS/A1). Where a record can be seen online, this is noted in the lower levels of the catalogue (sub-sub series, file or item level, etc); see, for example, CMS/B/OMS/C C1 O 21/1-11.
Related MaterialRelevant papers in other archive series: only a few outstanding series are mentioned here; normally any researcher working on a particular mission would need more than the Foreign Division's archives as headquarters' departments worked together dealing with all the various aspects of mission work.

General Secretary's Department: the Secretary to the Society was from the first responsible for the administration of work overseas. Even when this was transferred to the Group Secretaries he remained responsible for overall policy, for he was Secretary to the General Committee which bore ultimate responsibility for the Society's actions. The department's records include a series of letters from within the British Isles beginning in 1799 and ending in the 1850s-1860s [ref: G/AC3]. These include letters from missionaries while in Britain either before sailing for the first time or when home on leave. They cover letters written up to the time the ships left the English Channel and include letters from the German missionaries. There is also a series of letter-books containing copies of outgoing letters to people within the British Isles 1824-1890 [ref: G/AC1]. These are letters from Secretaries at headquarters dealing with all mission areas and include correspondence with the British government ant Church officials. A third major source of information is in the correspondence with missions [ref: G/Y]: most of this dates from the 1920s onwards. Each mission area, however, includes as first entry in the section of the catalogue, miscellaneous papers relating to that mission which date from about the 1840s onwards. Many of these papers are bundled by subject and relate to subjects for which the General Secretary was acting as Chief Foreign Secretary of the Society. This series is a major source for the appointments of bishops and the formation of dioceses.

Medical Department: the Medical Department's records include correspondence with individual mission hospitals and medical missions concerning property and medical supplies [ref: M/Y]. Some items missing from the precis series are to be found in these papers. There are also some plans of buildings [ref: M/FL1]. The medical magazine 'Mercy and Truth'' includes articles by medical missionaries which augment the letters and reports which are found in the main mission series.

Finance Department: two series of official correspondence which include letters from the Foreign Office also include some items which are missing from the precis series [refs: F/AC2, AC5]. There is also a mission journal 1847-1850 [ref: FY1].