|Description||The volumes, numbered 1-107, incorporate signed manuscript (1799-1907) and typescript (1908-1953) minutes of the principal CMS committees arranged in chronological order with, from the mid-19th century, printed and mimeographed reports, circulars, memoranda, regulations and constitutional papers pasted in or loosely inserted. From 1914 the volumes also include brief minutes of the Society's Annual Meeting. The minutes prior to April 1815 are unsigned. |
The minutes are primarily those of the Society's governing committees (the General Committee, the Overseas (Foreign) and Home committees and the Executive Committee), finance committees and those concerned with securing patronage for the Society, the appointment and training of missionaries, and with the Church Missionaries' Children's Home.
Committees whose minutes are included in the volumes (listed in alphabetical order):
1818-1875 Accounts (some including minutes of the House Committee and Funds Committee)
1850-1882 Children's Home Visiting Sub-Committee
1838-1881 Clerical Sub-Committee
1818-1916 Correspondence (appended to the General Committee minutes 1819-April 1822)
1842-1953 Finance (including minutes of the Finance Committee sitting as the House Committee 1881/1882-1919/1920)
1881-1916 Funds and Home Organisation
1919-1923 Home and Foreign
1825-1881 Islington College Visitors
The early volumes also include minutes of various special committees such as the Association Sub-Committee, House Committee and Buildings Sub-Committee and of 'Special' meetings convened where necessary in addition to regular committee meetings, for example, for taking leave of missionaries prior to their departure overseas or to consider the annual financial returns and estimates.
The date ranges listed above indicate the span of minutes included in the volumes, not necessarily the start and closure date of each committee; further minutes of the Committees of Correspondence, Accounts and Patronage can be found with the sub-committee minutes (see CMS/G/CS) and there is a separate sequence of Clerical Sub-Committee minutes (CMS/G/C3). The committees have been listed by the name under which they are recorded in the volumes and are not all mutually exclusive; for example, the Committee of Correspondence was renamed the Foreign Committee which was one of the predecessors to the Home and Foreign Committee (for further information on the Society's committees see the sub-fonds level description CMS/G).
The minutes are annotated with amendments, cross references and office file notes. Each page is superscribed with the name and date of the committee meeting to which they relate with the exception of the pre-1881 minutes of the General Committee for which only the date is given. From December 1883, resolutions of the General Committee and the Committee of Correspondence and its successors are numbered in red ink; later minutes are all individually numbered. From 1799-March 1818, and intermittently thereafter until 1830, the minutes are inscribed with detailed marginalia. From 1892, the initials of Secretaries responsible for drafting individual minutes are subscribed at the end of the minutes with the numbers of the items for which they were responsible [as a record of their having been checked for accuracy].
The volumes provide an overview of the organisation's administrative history, including the nature of its correspondence with similar organisations and the reciprocal relationship between the CMS, the British Government and Colonial administrations. The Society's proactive intervention in political, ecclesiastical and business interests and discussion of correspondence received from its missionaries mean that the minutes also provide an ongoing commentary on contemporary issues in the UK and overseas. In the 19th century volumes, for example, there is much concerning slavery and the Slave Trade, including the part played by the Society and its members in the sponsoring and education of formerly enslaved children, CMS involvement in controversies over land settlement in New Zealand, evidence of the CMS role as an active petitioner of both Houses of Parliament on the rights of indigenous populations and observations on the actions and impact of European traders and settlers in the Colonies and the Society's stance on the splitting away of members of the Free Church of Scotland from the Church of Scotland. The 20th century minutes include references to missionaries' work with the YMCA amongst the British forces during World War I, the impact of evangelical work amongst Muslim populations, post war nationalism and diocesanisation.
For research into named individuals, the minutes can be searched by name for committee decisions regarding appointments, transfers, marriages, retirement and in memoriam tributes (some of the latter giving considerable detail even in the 1950 minutes), personal grants and allowances etc. There are records of committee interviews with missionaries on furlough from the early 19th century until the mid-1920s, records giving names and ages of children admitted to the Church Missionaries' Children's Home 1850-1930s, and lists of students in training from 1826 (some with additional details regarding grades, date of entry and departure). For much of the 19th century, the minutes include summaries of offer of service letters and testimonials, although entries recording offers from men candidates do not give any detail by the end of the 1880s.
The level of detail recorded in the minutes concerning matters brought before the committees declines over time. Early minutes include summaries and, in some instances the full text, of correspondence and papers considered at committee and summaries of interviews and discussion topics, later minutes record only that papers were read and the committee's resolutions. Researchers interested in the sources giving rise to the minute must search the other record series (there are some numbered cross references to other records to which the minutes relate). Nevertheless, the volumes are a primary source spanning the full length of the Society's history and can help to compensate for gaps in other record series.
The minutes should be used alongside the extensive set of index volumes (see CMS/G/C 1A). A number of the volumes also incorporate manuscript indexes:
volume 1 (1799-1813) name and subject index
volumes 2-6 (1813-1824) name index (including role titles, for example, 'Secretaries')
volumes 7-25 (1824-1847) name and committee index
volumes 26-29 (1847-1853) name index
volumes 89-101 (1925-1944) committee index
As the name and remit of committees whose minutes are included in the volumes changes over time, and the committees worked closely together, researchers are strongly recommended to use the name and subject indexes rather than only searching by committee. For example, researchers interested in financial issues will find much concerning the Society's finances in the minutes of the General Committee and Committee of Correspondence as well as the committees dealing specifically with finances, and records of committee decisions regarding candidates and missionaries can be found in the minutes of the General Committee, the foreign committees, the Clerical Sub-Committee, finance committees and the training college and Children's Home Visitors' Committees.