Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)CMS/M/Y
TitleOverseas correspondence with missions
Extent191 files, 1 item
DescriptionIncoming correspondence from the overseas missions sent direct, or forwarded by other departments, to the Medical Secretary and outgoing correspondence from the Secretary back to the missions. This series also incorporates a few items of correspondence with other CMS Departments and outside agencies concerning the Society's medical work overseas including the British Colonial Office and national government agencies.

Arranged in 11 sequences comprising correspondence with Africa 1916-1949, Ceylon 1917-1934, China 1911-1951, Egypt 1915-1949, India 1916-1949, Japan 1917-1952, Palestine 1947-1949; Persia 1916-1949, Pakistan 1947-1949, Sudan 1917-1949, Turkish Arabia 1910-1926.

This is a key sequence of records and an important source for research into all aspects of the Society's overseas medical work. The letters cover all aspects of medical policy and administration, particularly relating to the supply of equipment, staffing, building and financial matters but also including circular letters and appeals from medical missionaries sending news of their work to supporters back in the UK; copies of local minutes and publications; tour reports; notes of Medical Committee interviews with missionaries, CMS staff and others; articles for publication in the Medical Department journals and a small number of photographs forwarded to illustrate the articles and appeals. They also include special memoranda and reports giving eye witness accounts of political and other events affecting the medical missions and their staff with much concerning the partition of India in 1947.

The early incoming correspondence was clearly divided into two series comprising 'A' and 'B' despatches. Up to 1920, the two sequences had filing dockets attached printed or stamped with an 'A' or 'B' and giving date of receipt, and identifying details including a unique identifying number corresponding with the order in which they were received. After 1920 rather than having a filing docket many of the 'B' despatches were annotated in ink with a filing number incorporating the letter B, and the date of receipt; there continued to be a second, unlettered, sequence of despatches which seems to correspond with the earlier 'A' despatches many with a general filing docket attached giving date of receipt etc and as before. The number of items with annotations or filing dockets declines over time so that both are rare in the late 1940s correspondence.

The two series are not completely distinct but the 'B' despatches generally concern routine financial and other matters including annual financial returns, drug indents, orders for drugs, equipment etc. They also include the missionaries' circular letters and some staff issues. The 'A' despatches more typically concern financial, legal, recruitment or policy issues needing a committee decision (the docketed 'A' despatches correspond with agenda items listed in the precis books see CMS/C 2/1).

Many of the sequences are incomplete either because items are missing or because they were extracted and filed with other series. In particular, whilst this series includes a number of building plans and financial returns, the majority were filed separately with the Medical Department financial papers. There are no 1936 despatch files except in the China general correspondence but a few items dated 1936 can be found with other 1937 despatches.
ArrangementBroadly arranged by year and thereunder by date of writing (outgoing despatches) or date of receipt by the Medical Department (incoming despatches). When searching for correspondence of a particular date, it is important to note the date range as well as the title as, for example, the despatches for 1930 might include incoming correspondence written in 1929 but not received by the Medical Department until the following year. Similarly, in some instances, correspondence will be found filed with related material rather than in date or receipt order.

Until 1930, the different incoming sequences of despatches were separated in each file with outgoing despatches filed with the 'A' correspondence (usually with dividers labelled 'A despatches and replies' and 'B despatches' or 'letters received' and 'letters sent' etc). The outgoing despatches are filed in forward chronological sequence, the incoming despatches in reverse. After 1930 all of the despatches for the year (and sometimes for several years) were filed together typically with incoming despatches arranged in one or more sequences in reverse chronological order of date of receipt following immediately on from a sequence of outgoing despatches in date order. The original arrangement has been retained but in order to facilitate retrieval, grey dividers have been inserted to distinguish the different date sequences and between incoming and outgoing despatches. Where it has been possible to do so with sufficient certainty, the dividers also distinguish between the different incoming sequences ('A' and 'B' despatches or simply 'incoming (part)').

Although there appear to be a number of discrepancies in the ordering of the material, particularly for the war years despatches, the letters have been retained in the order in which they were found at the time of cataloguing.
Access StatusOpen


    Some of our most significant collections