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Papers of the RBMU concerning the Congo, India, Nepal and Peru from the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, New College, University of Edinburgh

Part 2: Correspondence and Reports of the RBMU - the Congo Mission, 1888-1955

"The Regions Beyond Missionary Union, founded by the great nineteenth century millenarian, Henry Grattan-Guinness, D. D., is all but forgotten. The Guinness evangelical empire spanned the twentieth century and the world - Africa, Latin America, Asia. Moreover the mission survived through the turbulent era of decolonisation in the Belgian Congo, India and Asia, opening a whole new range of sources for those concerned with issues of colonialism and post-coloniality."
Professor David Dorward, Director, African Research Institute, La Trobe University, Australia

The Regions Beyond Missionary Union (RBMU) had its origins in the East End of London. Henry Grattan Guinness (1835-1910), whose uncle, Arthur Guinness, was the founder of the famous brewing empire, established the East London Training Institute for Home and Foreign Missions in Stepney Green in 1873. The Institute moved to larger premises in Harley House in Bow later in that year. From the outset, the Institute was interdenominational and international, and sought to train missionaries for service with missions around the world. Its first student, Joshua Chowriappah, was from India, and by 1903 some 887 men and 281 women had been trained. Of these 215 left to work in Africa, 182 in Asia, 170 in the Americas and 26 in Australasia.

The name Regions Beyond Missionary Union was adopted in 1899 in recognition of the growing global outreach of the Institute. It was committed to working among the poor regions peripheral to and beyond the British Empire and had established its own missions in the Congo (1878), Peru (1897), and in Bihar and Orissa, India (1899). Later missions were established in Kalimantan (Borneo) (1948), Nepal (1954), and Irian Jaya (1957).

The archive includes the minute books of the Board of Directors, c.17,000 letters from missionaries in different regions, books, pamphlets, journals and photographs. These records contain information about the socio-economic development, as well as the growth of Christianity in these areas. They are a valuable source for world history and will serve scholars in a variety of disciplines.

Part 2 is devoted to records of the Congo Mission. Henry and Fanny Grattan Guinness were members of the Committee that established the Livingstone Inland Mission following Stanley's reports of his journey across Africa. The Harley Institute provided the first recruits. RBMU ran the mission from 1880 to 1884 before handing over responsibility to the American Baptist Missionary Union and the Swiss Missionary Fellowship. Instead, RBMU diverted its efforts to the foundation of the Congo Balolo Mission in 1888. This enabled the RBMU to reach the interior and Regions Beyond existing missionary activity. By 1912 eight stations had been established and 123 missionaries sent out, of which 41 had died on, or soon after, returning from the field. The missionaries encountered slavery and cannibalism as recorded in the manuscripts in this collection.

The RBMU became involved in anti-slavery action and protests against the atrocities, working closely with the Congo Reform Association. It continued to expand, setting up schools and hospitals and a printing press in Bongandanga. The Mission continued to attract local support even when colonial rule was being challenged.

The archive of the Congo Mission includes hundreds of letters and reports, as well as memoirs and diaries. The Minutes of the Congo Balolo Mission, 1888-1919, are featured together with a rich collection of rare printed material and a run of The Congo Balolo Mission Record, 1904-1935. Articles concerning native evangelists and on Changing Africa are especially interesting. These materials provide a fascinating record of society, politics and religion in the Congo from 1878 to the 1950s.

This archive was deposited at the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World in 1991 following the winding up of the RBMU. The papers were fully sorted and catalogued in 2001. This microfilm edition offers scholars around the world the first opportunity to explore this archive in detail. The records relating to the Congo, Peru, Argentina, India, Kalimintan, Irian Jaya and Nepal will be vital to scholars studying these regions, but the archive also tells us much about the relationship of missionary enterprise and empire.

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