Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)CMS/G/AC 2
TitleGeneral Secretary's letter books 1874-1917
Extent104 volumes
DescriptionCopies of outgoing letters predominantly to people resident in, or visiting, the UK, but also including a few items addressed to missionaries and others overseas or while travelling. Including correspondence with candidates, missionaries, bishops and archbishops, the CMS President, CMS Association Secretaries, representatives of related organisations, newspaper and magazine editors, donors of gifts, clerics looking for help from missionaries on furlough, committee members, photographers involved in CMS exhibition work, and others. With the exception of March 1916-February 1917 when the [General] Secretary was absent from the office working with the National Mission [of Repentance and Hope (1916)], the letters are largely from the General Secretary or Assistants to the General Secretary and, until 1897, from W. M. Carruthers and David H[amilton] D[ickson] Wilkinson, Assist[ant] Cleric[al] Secretaries [with special responsibility for candidates].

Up to the end of 1897 much of the correspondence relates to the [General] Secretary's role as chief Candidates Secretary comprising letters with, and about, prospective candidates and candidates in training until they departed overseas. Including replies to initial enquiries; replies to offer of service letters; correspondence arranging interviews and explaining committee decisions where a candidate's offer was declined or training place discontinued; requests for testimonials for candidates and fiancees; replies to family members and others who had written respecting an individual who was considering (or had made) an offer of service; letters concerning candidates applying for ordination and correspondence with staff or friends of the Society involved in the assessment and preparation of candidates including the tutor of the Preparatory Institution and principals of other CMS training facilities. From 1 January 1898, letters concerning candidates were copied into Candidates Department letter books (see CMS/C). There are also many letters relating to the welfare of CMS missionaries, staff and their families concerning financial matters, arrangements for children (including correspondence with the Director of the Missionaries' Children's Home and friends offering to care for missionaries' children), entry to St Luke's Hospital and furlough rest homes (including homes of friends of the Society offered to missionaries needing a period of quiet), letters written to support returning missionaries in obtaining Livings in the UK, letters of condolence and and letters offering support and encouragement to those working in particularly difficult circumstances. Also including correspondence with, and about missionaries, explaining committee decisions regarding their future with CMS (for example, where ill health prevented their return overseas, or where a missionary had acted against CMS regulations) and requesting their opinion on matters coming before the committees. The correspondence with bishops typically concerns permission for returning clerical missionaries or those on furlough to officiate in the UK, overseas bishoprics and other diocesan matters. The early volumes in particular contain correspondence relating to literary and translation work, including correspondence concerning articles for CMS journals. There are also many letters of a routine nature relating to committee business and concerning arrangements for appointments, talks, meetings and events in the CMS year, including arrangements for General Secretary's deputation work and delegations overseas, anniversary meetings and speakers for Farewell meetings; appointment of Secretaries (including Association Secretaries), vice presidents, life governors, other honorary positions and vacant overseas posts; letters concerning appointments to CMS committees and responding to enquiries regarding home staff appointments; letters of introduction for friends wishing to visit CMS missions whilst travelling abroad; correspondence concerning copyright, arrangements for visitors from overseas, distribution of the [General] Secretary's Intercession Paper and other items of General Secretary's business. By the 1880s, in addition to routine correspondence, there are letters written in response to charges against the Society (particularly allegations about the Society's doctrinal position disseminated through the Press) and letters dealing with complex questions concerning individual candidates and missionaries.

This sequence is notable for references to CMS activity in World War I, including brief letters of commendation for missionaries applying for a commission in the RAMC or to become army chaplains, and letters concerning work amongst the troops with the YMCA.

Each letter is superscribed or subscribed with the name of the addressee and, increasingly from the early 1890s, their address. From volume 77, letters are annotated with the page number of other letters to the addressee copied in the same volume. Two concurrent volumes, originally numbered 104, seem to have been used during Cyril Bardsley's absence 1916-1917 when correspondence was shared amongst the Secretaries and B[aring] Baring-Gould who, as a former CMS Secretary, took on the General Secretary's role of seeking Livings for returned missionaries.

The volumes have name indexes of correspondents with entries arranged broadly alphabetically and thereunder chronologically. Indexes for volumes 2-9, during Henry Wright's Secretaryship, include cross references to private letter books. Although the volumes lack subject indexes, as many of the letters relate to items discussed at committee meetings, the committee minutes and indexes in the records of the General Secretary's Department can be used alongside the letter books to help establish the existence and date range of correspondence relevant to an individual or research topic, and to facilitate understanding of the issues raised therein (see CMS/G/C).
ArrangementBroadly in chronological order.
Access StatusOpen
Physical DescriptionThe pages are very fragile and some torn and a number of volumes have pages missing. Volume 26 is missing.


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