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World Student Christian Federation Geneva office records

Call Number: RG 46F

Scope and Contents

Records of the World Student Christian Federation, including reports and publications, correspondence, administrative records, and materials relating to affiliated national student Christian movements and collaborating secular and ecumenical organizations.

The Reports series includes all annual and programmatic reports of the Federation. It also includes a number of reports and statements on particular topics, such as disarmament, Christianity in the university environment, ecumenism, race, and Christianity in particular national contexts.

The Publications include published copies and production files for nearly all Federation publications, especially Student World, Federation News, and WSCF Dossier. These include early works by biblical scholars and theologians including Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Suzanne de Dietrich, and Willem A. Visser ‘t Hooft. The series also includes production files for the WSCF’s ecumenical prayer book, Venite Adoremus, and ecumenical hymnal, Cantate Domino.

The Conferences, committees, and commissions series includes preparatory materials, programs, papers, and reports from meetings arranged and/or attended by WSCF members. These include the General Committee/General Assembly of the Federation, which is the primary governing body for the entire organization, and meetings of the Executive Committee. As Ruth Rouse wrote in her history of the Federation, “Conferences are the warp and woof of Federation growth. The history of the Federation is to no small extent the history of the conferences and its general committee meetings. [Each] marks an ascent, an advance into some new area of the world or into some new region of thought; or the initiation of some new phase of policy or activity.” Indeed, the WSCF was unique among interdenominational Christian organizations in holding its plenary conference outside Europe early on – Tokyo in 1907, Istanbul in 1911, Beijing in 1922, and others. Included in the records of the General Committee/General Assembly are not only papers of individuals who assumed life-long leadership roles in the ecumenical movement, but also documentation of the growth of organizational and communications models which, with some adaptation, have survived two world wars, decolonization, and the student revolution of the 1960s. This series also includes records from topical commissions and from conferences convened by other organizations and attended by WSCF delegations. Of these, the files of the WSCF Political Commission are particularly interesting, recording how WSCF members grappled with global issues such as race, Christian political involvement, decolonization, economic power, the Chinese revolution, decolonization, nuclear weaponry, communism, the Vietnam war, and pacifism.

The Projects and programs series includes records of regular and special projects and programs organized by the Federation and its regional and national branches. Some are focused on strengthening Christian faith and understanding, such as the Universal Day of Prayer for Students (which WSCF has organized annually since 1898) and Bible study materials. Others are focused on financial support, especially the European Student Relief Fund and the Ecumenical Assistance Program. Still others focus on developing the membership of the Federation itself, including programs for students studying abroad, secondary school students, women, and general leadership training programs. This series also includes general photograph files.

The Secretaries and correspondence series includes files from staff members of the WSCF, particularly travelling secretaries and Executive Committee members, as well as internal and external correspondence. These include extensive personal working files of such influential WSCF leaders as Suzanne Bidgrain, John Coleman, Rena Datta, Suzanne de Dietrich, Valdo Galland, Marie-Jeanne de Haller, Henry-Louis Henriod, Conrad Hoffmann, T.Z. Koo, Walter Kotschnig, Risto Lehtonen, Robert Mackie, Pierre Maury, Philippe Maury, Francis Miller, Ruth Rouse, Hermann Rutgers, Tissington Tatlow, Kyaw Than, M.M. Thomas, Willem Visser ‘t Hooft, and others. Of these files, the travel reports are particularly interesting, recording specific activities of the WSCF and affiliated movements globally and containing rather candid accounts of the lives of students in each country. The breadth and depth of these reports offer plentiful opportunities for comparisons of how life for young people changed over the course of the twentieth century. This series also includes photographs of individuals.

The National movements series includes files about student Christian activities in particular countries, whether officially affiliated or not with the WSCF. It also includes records from WSCF’s six regional offices established after restructuring in 1972. These files are especially useful for understanding the state of Christian communities in particular country contexts, and how those communities changed over time. For example, records from Turkey are robust in the early 1900s, but disappear after the second world war; South Africa is nearly the only African country represented until the 1960s, when many African countries began declaring independence from European colonial powers.

The Administrative and financial records include internal files from the Geneva office, such as general office files, information about staff and interns, and fundraising and financial records. The series also includes information about the WSCF archives, both in New Haven (RG 46) and Geneva, as well as materials from the centennial history project.

The Collaborations series includes correspondence, reports, and other materials relating to WSCF’s work with other NGOs, student organizations, ecumenical and denominational organizations, and other groups. Particularly well-represented are the International Union of Students, the United Nations and UNESCO, Pax Romana, YMCA and YWCA, and the World Council of Churches.


  • 1895 - 2017
  • Majority of material found within 1925 - 2000


Language of Materials

The materials are primarily in English, with large amounts of materials in French, German, and Spanish. There are also some materials in Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, and other languages.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Existence and Location of Copies

Boxes 213.01.1 through 213.12.50 are available on microfilm.

Finding aid:

Yale catalogue record:

The Student World is also available on microfilm:


The collection is arranged into eight series:

I. Reports

II. Publications

III. Conferences, committees, and commissions

IV. Projects and programs

V. Secretaries and correspondence

VI. National movements

VII. Administrative and financial records

VIII. Collaborations with other organizations

Portions of the materials were originally described in French. Country names were translated and modernized in the description, with the name originally used in parenthesis (e.g. “Germany (Allemagne)” or “Benin (Dahomey)”); however, the original alphabetical ordering is maintained (e.g. “Germany (Allemagne)” filed under “A” and “Benin (Dahomey)” filed under “D”).

Portions of the arrangement reference the six administrative regions of the WSCF: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East, and North America. The WSCF has been structured this way since 1972. In this collection, earlier materials from particular countries have been arranged according to the regions they are currently part of. There are two cases which merit further explanation:

- Turkey does not have a modern movement, so has never been in an official WSCF region. In this collection, it appears under Middle East.

- In the original arrangement, New Sudan (southern Sudan) is usually classed as part of Africa, while northern Sudan ("Sudan," the region containing Khartoum) is usually part of the Middle East. This division has been maintained wherever it appears.

Related Materials

Due to the custodial history of the collection, there is some degree of overlap with RG 46, particularly for reports and publications circa 1895-1930.

Numerous other record groups at the Divinity Library complement this collection. The papers of John R. Mott (RG 45) are integrally related to the archives of the WSCF. Mott was a founder of the organization and its General Secretary and Chairman for many years. Likewise, the papers of Ruth Rouse (RG 313), who was Secretary for the WSCF for twenty years, working closely alongside Mott. During her career with the WSCF, Rouse visited sixty-six different countries, including every country in Europe except Portugal.

Also related are the Frontier Internship in Mission records (RG 317), Archives of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (RG 42), the Archives of the YMCA-Student Division (RG 58), and the papers of Robert P. Wilder (RG 38), Clarence P. Shedd (RG 35) and Luther D. Wishard (RG 30).

The Archives of the World Student Christian Federation North America Regional Office, Record Group No. 46A, provide documentation of the continuing efforts of the WSCF, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. The collection contains the North American secretaries' files and official records from the United States Committee and the Student Christian Movement of Canada. Operations of the Inter-Regional Office in Geneva and other regional student movements are also documented.

Additional records of the WSCF are found in the following addenda:

  1. World Student Christian Federation Board of Trustees in the U.S. records (RG 46B)
  2. World Student Christian Federation records, Addendum (RG 46C)
  3. World Student Christian Federation Africa Region records (RG 46D)
  4. World Student Christian Federation Europe Region records (RG 46E)


575 Linear Feet (1297 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Records of the World Student Christian Federation, including reports and publications, correspondence, administrative records, and materials relating to affiliated national student Christian movements and collaborating secular and ecumenical organizations.

Biographical / Historical

The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) is a global ecumenical federation of student Christian groups. It is the oldest international student organization, founded in 1895 by North American evangelist and global ecumenist John R. Mott. It was the first international organization committed to equal participation of men and women, and unique among interdenominational Christian organizations in holding its plenary conference outside Europe early on – Tokyo in 1907, Istanbul in 1911, Beijing in 1922, and others. The local and national groups that make up the Federation are largely known as Student Christian Movements (SCMs). In some cases, the youth or student movement of a national church or other ecumenical organization is a member of the WSCF. While university, polytechnic and other tertiary students make up the bulk of SCM membership, high school students are also involved in some movements. Today, WSCF connects two million members in over 90 countries, having over one hundred affiliated national movements which span the six WSCF regions: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East and North America.

The WSCF was established in 1895 at Vadstena Castle, Sweden, by students and student leaders from ten North American and European countries, including John R. Mott (United States), J. Rutter Williamson (United Kingdom), Karl Fries (Sweden), Martin Eckhoff (Norway), Johannes Siemsen (Germany), and Luther D. Wishard (United States, representing Christian students “in mission lands”).

There is a close historical connection between the WSCF and the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Christian Associations. Mott, for example, was leader of the YMCA, and with the help of YMCA colleagues he developed the vision and strategies for forming an international federation of autonomous and self-directing ecumenical student movements. Much of the subsequent work of establishing and linking SCMs was done with the assistance of YWCAs and YMCAs.

During and after the world wars, the WSCF played a key role in refugee work in Europe and strove to keep communication and solidarity links open between Christians divided by nationalism and war. After the first world war, the WSCF established the European Student Relief Fund. Over four years, students of forty-two nations provided over $650,000 for the relief of starving students in nineteen countries. At that time, close working relationships developed with Pax Romana, the student organization of the Roman Catholic Church. In 1926, European Student Relief became an autonomous body, International Student Service, later to be called World University Service, which continues to this day. During the second world war, women leaders of the WSCF and YWCA, especially Suzanne de Dietrich, played a major role in creating CIMADE, which worked with refugees.

Until the late 1960s, the international staff of the WSCF were based in Geneva. A major structural change in 1972 decentralized the WSCF into six regions: Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East and North America. The Geneva headquarters became the inter-regional office. Programmatic and decision-making work shifted to the regions, reflecting the new mood of self-determination in third-world countries and the search for contextualization in theology and politics. The WSCF continues to examine critically its structures, both politically and administratively, especially as its constituency is now looking for ways to strengthen program and solidarity links that go beyond the regional boundaries.

In the 1960s and 1970s, WSCF movements, especially in North America and Europe, were closely involved with the radical political movements. Their political solidarity and their critique of education convinced them that the mission field was no longer in educational institutions but on the streets and in the villages. The theme of the WSCF in the 1970s – Christian Witness in the Struggle for Liberation – sums up the political commitment of the WSCF at the same time it moved to a regional structure. The political debates in the WSCF were painful, at times divisive.

Now, the WSCF lives in a much more complex environment in the educational institutions, and this poses a new challenge to its missionary and ecumenical task. Its member movements have been consolidating their presence in educational institutions again, giving specific attention to conveying the unique ecumenical character of their work and life. As a result, some movements that almost disappeared in the 1970s, including that of the United States, have begun to re-establish their organizational base. Many movements still remain vulnerable, however, with little financial support and strong competition from conservative groups.

(adapted from WSCF website:

Custodial History

From the inception of the WSCF until 1940, John R. Mott was the primary person concerned with the archives of the organization. He kept as complete a file as possible through 1919, when he stepped down as General Secretary, and continued gathering materials through 1940. In the fall of that year, he had to move out of his offices at the International Missionary Council Building in New York City. In consultation with Rev. Dr. Clarence P. Shedd and Raymond P. Morris, he decided to deposit his “personal” collection of WSCF materials in the Divinity School Library at Yale. Those materials were catalogued by Ruth Rouse, and now constitute RG 46.

The records from the WSCF Geneva offices were stored at 13 Rue Calvin as long as the Federation occupied those offices. At some point in the 1950s, Adeline de Pasquier instituted the practice of transferring a number of years of past files from file cabinets to transfer cases. The contents were listed on the outside of each case, and the cases numbered. No weeding was done, and no paper record of the original box listings is extant. This formal practice appears to have been followed until approximately 1960, although some transfers did occur after that date. The records moved with the WSCF to the John R. Mott House, then to the Centre John Knox, where they were deposited with the World Council of Churches library.

A portion of the records (circa 1925-1980) were processed in preparation for the WSCF’s centennial in 1995. The project was commissioned by the History and Archives Committee. Processing was done by a series of interns in Geneva, supervised by Terry Thompson, General Synod Archivist of the Anglican Church of Canada. The collection was arranged into chronological series, with each series spanning two or four years. Additionally, there was a series for committee minutes, conferences, publications, and records from the temporary Toronto office (1941-1945). This section of the collection has been re-processed intellectually, but left physically intact. Its physical arrangement is reflected in the box numbering system; all boxes with numbers beginning “213.X” are from the Geneva archive processed in 1995. The original series are reflected in the second decimal place: e.g. 213.08 for records 1925-1929, and 213.12 for Toronto Office records. The third decimal place indicates the box number within each series. These records, along with those accumulated since 1980 until approximately 2010, were transferred to Yale in 2018 from their previous location in the library of the World Council of Churches.

Guide to the World Student Christian Federation Geneva Office records
Elizabeth Peters
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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