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'Our Foreign Field': India

 

'Our Foreign Field': India

One of the strengths of the International Heritage Centre’s (IHC) holdings is its collections of records and published material relating to Salvation Army work in India. Work began in India in 1882, making it the organisation’s earliest mission field and its own ‘Jewel in the Crown’. Material at the IHC spans from these beginnings to the present day and offers an insight into the development and nature of The Salvation Army’s presence in India during the last 130 years.

Re-arrangement and cataloguing of records in recent years has increased access to and interest in Salvation Army work in India, benefiting both internal and external researchers.

The first IHC archivist catalogued the papers of all six Indian ‘Territories’ (administrative regions) held by the IHC in 2009. Since 2012 key collections of the International Headquarters’ Departments have also been catalogued. Of note for researchers interested in India are the General’s Office [GEN] (the General is the international leader); the Chief of the Staff’s Office [COS](the Chief of Staff is the General’s deputy); and the South Asia Zonal Department [SAZ]. This cataloguing has revealed previously ‘hidden’ records relating to The Salvation Army’s aims, strategies and work in India.

Within the last 18 months we have also re-arranged and catalogued the IHC’s historic collection of ‘Personality files’, comprising personal papers and non-archival material (predominantly press cuttings) assembled by former staff. Many of the files were specifically assembled for individuals considered ‘notable’ within The Salvation Army; others comprised ad hoc deposits of personal papers. As with many IHC records, the majority had little or no provenance.

This process of re-cataloguing has also revealed hidden records. Some files contained valuable personal papers of British Salvation Army ‘officers’ (ministers) who served in India. Such personal papers had retained their archival integrity (they seemed not to have been re-arranged) by dint of being unknown to or of less interest to previous staff. Previously hidden highlights include the family papers of Lt-Colonel Mary Murray [MSM], daughter of British Army General Sir John Irvine Murray.  These papers include John Murray’s correspondence with his wife and daughter regarding his experiences in India during the ‘Indian Mutiny’ (1857-1858).

The IHC also holds published sources relating to India, including pamphlet and book collections which are catalogued and available to search via our online catalogue. One aspect work which is strongly reflected in these sources is The Salvation Army’s running of settlements for so-called Indian ‘Criminal Tribes’ on behalf of the British colonial government.

In addition, the IHC holds copies, from the 1880s onwards, of the weekly newspaper The War Cry (both British and Indian versions) and the International Headquarters’ bi-monthly publication All the World, all of which are rich with information regarding the development of The Salvation Army in India and perceptions of Indian culture and society. Another useful resource is the annual Year Book (produced since 1906) which includes short histories and statistical information for every Territory. Unfortunately, these periodicals are not indexed or catalogued; however previous staff and researchers have compiled lists of references to articles and features about India, arranged both by place and subject.

Hari
January 2014 

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