Established in 1799 as a Christian evangelical missionary organisation, the Church Missionary Society had its early roots in the Clapham Sect, and counted among its founders William Wilberforce, John Venn and Charles Simeon. For over two hundred years, the CMS has been at the forefront of pioneering missionary activity throughout the world, attracting more than 9,000 men and women to serve. The overseas mission work of CMS began in Sierra Leone in 1804 and expanded rapidly thereafter. In Africa the CMS's involvement has been concentrated in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo, Rwanda and Sudan; in Asia, the society's activity has largely been in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China and Japan; and in the Middle East, it was active in Palestine, Jordan, Iran and Egypt. Much of the photograph collection documents the CMS's role in running schools, colleges, medical missions, hospitals and agricultural projects.
The collection comprises thirty-two boxes and two files of photographs, eight boxes of glass negatives, six boxes of negatives/transparencies, one box of film negatives and forty boxes of lantern slides. Each box is individually labelled with geographical regions.
The numbering of the collection divisions has been changed from Roman to Arabic numerals, making CMS/I-XXXV now CMS/1-35. Similarly, alphabetical subdivisions have been replaced by Arabic numerals, making CMS/II/A now CMS/2/1.
The collection falls into three main categories:
Prints, numbered 1-17
Negatives, numbered 18-23
Slides, numbered 24-35
The typescript catalogue is in two volumes: Volume I contains introductory material and a list of prints 1-9. Volume II lists prints 10-17, negatives 18-23 and slides 24-35.
The majority of the photographs and slides are post 1945 but there are earlier ones of considerable historical interest. Among these are two slides of the 1895 Uganda Missionary Party (CMS 26/1-2) and a photograph of the 1896 Uganda Missionary Party (CMS 13/221). In addition, some of the East African lantern slides date from the early 1900s. CMS 31 contains 32 slides of China, apparently taken from nineteenth-century drawings.
Presented to the Royal Commonwealth Society by Miss Rosemary Keen, Archivist of the Church Missionary Society, in 1988.