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Section VI: Missions to India

Part 1: India General, 1811-1815,and North India Mission, 1815-1881

India had been the object of Evangelical ambitions since the 1790s. An attempt (led by William Wilberforce) to amend the East India Company's charter, ensuring it permitted missionaries access, was rejected in 1793. Some evangelicals did serve in India as Company employees, and a Corresponding Committee was set up in Calcutta in 1807. 1813 saw Wilberforce and his allies achieve success and over the next few years CMS missionaries began to arrive in India. The Committee enjoyed much greater latitude of action than similar boards in other mission areas, and relations between it and the CMS in London were often tense until the situation was regularised in the late 1820s.

The first CMS missionaries to North India reached Calcutta in 1816. The Calcutta Corresponding Committee controlled work in North India until 1878, when the Punjab stations were joined to the Sind stations (which were previously managed by the Bombay committee). Further divisions in the next few decades illustrate both the scope of the missions as well as developing administrative priorities. A similar pattern can be found underlying the growth and splitting of the missions run by Corresponding Committees in Madras (founded 1814) and Bombay (founded 1818). The final area of operations was Ceylon.

India was possibly the most prominent of all the mission fields; its impact on popular culture can easily be illustrated by the ambitions of St John Rivers in Jane Eyre. CMS missions initially began in Calcutta and Madras, and expansion (despite problems over recruitment, which necessitated the employment of German Lutherans) was swift. By 1910 there were some 416 missionaries stationed in India, the country having been divided into seven missionary regions:

- Bengal and Bihar
- Punjab and Sind
- United Provinces
- Central Provinces
- Western India
- South India
- Travancore and Cochin

A census the following year revealed that the total size of the Protestant community was 1.5 million of which 333,000 were Anglicans. Such figures amply illustrate the success (and failure) of missionary societies throughout the sub-continent.

The CMS archive, published here, contains detailed accounts of missionary activities throughout India. Topics covered include:

- methods of evangelism
- reports from stations and missionaries
- financial and strategic planning
- the use of education
- relationships with the Anglican hierarchy and other Anglican and Protestant missionary groups
- biographical and autobiographical material for both Indians and Europeans

Part 1 focuses on India General, 1811-1815 and the North India Mission, 1815-1881 (CMS headquarters were re-organized in the 1880's, explaining the split in dates for the first part). Part 2 continues with the North India Mission, 1815-1881. Parts 3 and 4 move on to look at the South India Mission for the years 1815-1884.

One of the highlights of the collection is the detailed reports which were compiled by missionaries when they first arrived in a new area. They included geographical descriptions, notes on local flora and the inhabitants themselves, their backgrounds and allegiances, languages and religious customs. These reports, sometimes compiled by missionaries accompanying military surveyors, are amongst the earliest European reports for many parts of India, from the Bengal-Nepal border (where Rev. Schroeter travelled with Lt. Weston) to the south and the west of the country.

There are substantial amounts of local material (much of an ephemeral nature), including both manuscript and printed documents. Some of this local material includes reports published in the 1870s from Kashmir and Meerut. Such material is of great importance for scholars of both mission and empire, for investigating how British and CMS policies developed (and differed) towards India. Reports and papers detail the shifting opinions of missionaries on Indian religions and society. Insights can also be found into the impact of British rule on India.

Part 1 begins with the Early Correspondence for India General, 1811-1815. The body of this part covers the papers for North India - Early Correspondence, 1815-1820; Letter Books, 1820-1881 and Mission Books, 1820-1844.

The Early Correspondence for India General, 1811-1815 contains incoming and outgoing correspondence between the Secretaries and the missionaries, agents and government officials. There is a wide variety of material including letters from Rev David Corrie who arrived in India in 1806 describing the teaching of Abdul Museeh, a native catechist with journals written by Abdul Maseeh himself; letters from Rev Rhenius and Rev Schnarre describing their arrival in the mission and their diaries detailing their experiences.

Information regarding schools includes an account of salaries of school teachers and a list of English and Tamul Free Schools with names of the masters and the number of scholars. Included also are the proceedings of the CMS Committee in Calcutta.

The Early Correspondence for North India, 1815-1820 contains incoming and outgoing correspondence between the Secretaries and the missionaries, agents and government officials and includes a mixture of material for the early period of the mission. It includes letters from Rev G Schroeter describing his journey to India and his experiences on arrival; news of the death of Mrs Bryan whose husband was in charge of the Native School in Calcutta; letters from Rev Thomas Thomason to the Secretary and to the Archdeacon; reports of meetings of the CMS Committee in Calcutta and circular letters issued by them; the journal of Rev Bowley for 1818 and 1819; report of the Calcuttan Diocesan Committee; some pages from The Calcutta Journal; a report by Mr Allington on the school at Benares; a letter from the inhabitants of Benares to Rev Corrie and CMS committee minutes.

The Letter Books, 1820-1881 contain copies of outgoing correspondence from the Secretary to missionaries (mainly the mission secretary). Each contains an alphabetical index of missionaries with dates and page numbers. Topics covered include discussions re a proposed college, grants to the bishop; concern that a box of idols had not been received in London; discussions on who should succeed the present bishop; complaints that annual letters are not being sent by the missionaries; and discussions on the possibility of sending a lady missionary out to educate female children.

There are many interesting letters to missionaries regarding all manner of mission business: a letter to Rev Eleson regarding his good work preaching in the Bazaar and the surrounding villages; letters to Rev Cuthbert re the increase in missionary salaries and health of missionaries and the success of the Orphan Press; letters re the finance of the mission with details about the compensation fund after the destruction of the Agra printing press during the 1857 mutiny.

There are also many letters of instructions to new missionaries going out to India such as to Rev Smith, Rev Morse, Rev Knorpp, Rev Leupold, Rev Haberlin and Rev Linke. The Secretary advises self-denial and not to expect too much success in the first few years. He also advises them to acquire the native language as soon as possible, not to undertake unsuitable marriages and the importance of sending annual letters to London.

Included also are discussions re conferences to be held and travelling allowances to be paid to missionaries; a list of suggestions for the improvement of the Krishnagur mission; yearly estimates for the mission; letters re the opening of a new college in Calcutta; letters to the Baptist Missionary Society re the work in Mulliana; proposals for enlarging the system of management in North India; discussions on the Cathedral Mission College; regulations for Native Church Councils in North India; a letter re the setting up of the Punjab and Sind Corresponding Committee for an area of Lahore diocese; and a report on native catechists and readers in India.

The Mission Books contain hand written copies of the Original Papers sent by the missionaries to the Secretary in London. The papers are numbered in the order they arrived in London. The letters and journals from 1820-1848 are copied out in full and a note of receipt is made for the financial and printed papers. Each volume has an alphabetical index of missionaries and some subjects

They contain letters on a wide variety of subjects: supplies received, progress of schools, expenses, difficulty in raising subscriptions; letters from the Correspondence Committee to the Bishop of Calcutta; news from missionaries re conversions, preaching, new Churches and the learning of the language; journals by missionaries including Rev Thomas Morris and Rev Bowley. There are balance sheets showing expenses and receipts as well as Committee minutes.

Included also are a list of schools at Burdwan with the number of students and those who had received the Gospel; minutes of the Calcutta Auxiliary Committee; a list of mission stations with the number of labourers and salaries; report for Allahabad, 1828-1829; private letters from Rev Charles Friend to his relations and friends; a letter from Rev T Morris re suttee; an account of the Benares Mission in 1845 by Rev Eleson; and minutes of a quarterly meeting of the Agra School Committee.

Also to be found are journals of missionaries such as Rev Sandys, Rev Linke, Rev Weibracht, Rev Alexander, Rev Bowley, Rev Smith, Rev Leupold and Rev Wilkinson, detailing their experiences and giving interesting descriptions of local customs.

Other papers included are the minutes of a Special Meeting of the Calcutta Correspondence Committee, letters re the estimated expenditure of the North India mission for 1840 and the conduct of recent converts.

The India section of the CMS archive is of primary importance for investigating the consequences of British rule in India, for both Indians and British. The archive enables detailed area studies as well as research into broader areas of policy and cultural assumptions. Due to the importance of India to British Imperial ambitions, the complex relationship between missionaries and colonial administrators can be traced through the detailed letters, papers and documents contained within this project.

Much material on India can also be found in Sections II and III of the Church Missionary Society Archive (also published by Adam Matthew Publications). Due to the extent of mission stations and missionaries in India, material (both manuscript and printed) for the Society for Promoting Female Education and for the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society can be found in Section II: Missions to Women and Section III: Central Records.

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