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World Student Christian Federation Records

Call Number: RG 46

Scope and Contents

These records, collected under the supervision of John R. Mott, represent the official archives of the World's Student Christian Federation from 1895 to 1925. The official WSCF archives from the period following 1925, which were located at the organization's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, were transferred to the Yale Divinity Library in 2018 and constitute Record Group 46F. The WSCF archives represented by Record Group No. 46 contain materials dating from 1875 to 1945. The materials dating from before 1895 primarily document organizations which later became members of the WSCF The WSCF collection at Yale continued to receive important Federation documents and serial publications following the organization's change of headquarters in 1925.

Received with this collection were the books and periodicals that constituted the Library of the WSCF. In 1919, the Library of the WSCF (also called the John R. Mott Library) included some five thousand volumes, with documents in more than twenty languages. A dictionary card catalog and shelf list in the Day Missions Library provide bibliographic access to these printed materials.

A unique classification system modeled after the Dewey Decimal System was developed specifically for the archives and the library of the WSCF in the early part of the 20th century by Mrs. Grace J. Livingston. Mrs. Livingston's classification system was updated and expanded by Miss Ruth Rouse in the 1940s. The organization of files resulting from this classification system has been preserved in Record Group No. 46; the compilers of this finding aid take no responsibility for the inconsistencies, ambiguities, and undue complexities of the classification system!

Contained in Box 2, Folder 31 of this collection are documents that describe the arrangement of the archives, including: the "Key to Alphabetical Arrangements" and "Classification System for Federation Archives." These lists define the meaning of each alphabetical and numerical entry in the classification. Another important document in this folder, which researchers are advised to peruse is "Hints to Research Workers in the John R. Mott Library," which was compiled by Ruth Rouse in 1945. Rouse worked extensively in the collection while preparing her history of the WSCF published in 1948.

The alphabetical portion of each classification designation refers to the geographical location of a student movement, except in the case of section "A", which refers to the WSCF as an international organization. The numerical portion of the classification refers to various aspects of the activities and thought of the student movements. The "600" category, for example, documents student Christian organizations in individual educational institutions and work with special classes of students. The "600" category is divided into fourteen subcategories, each referring to a different type of institution (colleges and universities, theological schools, medical schools, etc.) or a different class of student (women students, art students, etc.). Therefore, any documents in Record Group No. 46 related to women students in France would be classified under D(f)622, the "D(f)" indicating the geographical location and the "622" specifying work among women students. Records documenting student Christian activities at Yale would be classified under B (for the United States) 610 through 619. The (often unnecessary) complexity of the classification system is illustrated by the fact that documents related to student Christian activities at Yale are found under twelve numbers within the 610 to 619 range: 611.25, 614.1, 615.004, 615.1, 615.311, 615.32, 615.444, 615.47, 615.49, 615.491, 615.495, and 615.5.

Interesting sections and items are scattered throughout this large collection. The D(c) section, for example, contains much useful material regarding Germany before, during and after World War I. The D(aa)912E and D(aa)990 sections contain reports of hardships amidst famine and revolution in Russia during the 1920s. The Federation News Sheets in section A950 provide international reporting of personal experiences during World War II. The "700" category documents student life in general and student organizations other than those which were members of the WSCF The blocks and photographs in the collection include John R. Mott and the other founding fathers of the WSCF, Ruth Rouse, and numerous groups of conference attendees. Also of interest are the World War I disarmament posters in Section B750.

Letters and writings of notable individuals are also scattered throughout the collection. Section A961.14, for example, includes a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to the WSCF conference in Tokyo in 1907. Sections D(bc)512, 518 and 544.3 contain works by the Swedish theologian Gustaf Aulén. Personal notes, writings and correspondence of John R. Mott are present throughout the record group. There are letters and writings by numerous individuals who were prominent in student work and the church overseas, including G. Sherwood Eddy, Karl Fries, Michi Kawai, T.Z. Koo, Baron Paul Nicolay, William Paton, Tissington Tatlow, W.A. Visser 't Hooft, Robert P. Wilder and H.L. Zia.

The constituent members of the WSCF varied widely in their size and vigor, a fact which is reflected in the volume of material available for each in this record group. For example, the student movements of Sweden, Great Britain, the United States, France, Germany, and China were most prolific in issuing publications.

Especially well-documented in this record group are WSCF members in the United States: the YMCA, YWCA, Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM), and American Interseminary Alliance. There are sixteen linear feet of correspondence, pamphlets and reports on subjects ranging from the origins of the movements to conferences, foreign students in the United States, sex education and Bible study. Of particular interest is a group of materials in section B549.01 which documents the Mount Holyoke Missionary Association, an early forerunner of the Student Volunteer Movement. The liabilities of the WSCF classification system are evident in the "B" (United States) section; records related to four distinct organizations are mingled together under numerous overlapping and confusing subject headings.


  • 1859-2007


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.


  1. I. A000: General
  2. II. A100: Objects and Field, Extension and Supervision
  3. III. A300: Organization, Incorporation
  4. IV. A400: Salaried Officers
  5. V. A500: Organized Lines of Work and Study
  6. VI. A600: Associations in Individual Institutions or Among Special Classes of Students
  7. VII. A700: Student Life in General Outside the Federation
  8. VIII. A800: Correspondence
  9. IX. A900: History
  10. X. U: Photographs and Scrapbooks
  11. XI. B: United States
  12. XII. B(a): Canada
  13. XIII. B(c): Mexico
  14. XIV. B(g): Alaska
  15. XV. B(h): Philippines
  16. XVI. B(w): Caribbean and West Indies
  17. XVII. C: South America - General
  18. XVIII. C(a): Argentina
  19. XIX. C(b): Brazil
  20. XX. C(c): Chile
  21. XXI. C(d): Uruguay
  22. XXII. C(e): Peru
  23. XXIII. (D): Europe - Part 1 General
  24. XXIV. D(aa): Russia
  25. XXV. D(ab): Russian SCM Outside of Russia
  26. XXVI. D(b): Scandinavia - General
  27. XXVII. D(ba): Finland
  28. XXVIII. D(bb): Norway
  29. XXIX. D(bc): Sweden
  30. XXX. D(bd): Denmark
  31. XXXI. D(c): Germany
  32. XXXII. D(d): The Netherlands
  33. XXXIII. D(e): Belgium
  34. XXXIV. D(f): France
  35. XXXV. D(h): Portugal
  36. XXXVI. D(i): Spain
  37. XXXVII. D(k): Switzerland
  38. XXXVIII. D(l): Italy
  39. XXXIX. D(m): Austria
  40. XL. D(n): Hungary
  41. XLI. D(o): Czech Republic and Slovakia (Czechoslovakia)
  42. XLII. D(p): Poland
  43. XLIII. D(r/a): Romania
  44. XLIV. D(r/b): Serbia (Yugoslavia)
  45. XLV. D(r/c): Bulgaria
  46. XLVI. D(r/d): Greece
  47. XLVII. D(s/a): Estonia
  48. XLVIII. Latvia
  49. XLIX. Great Britain and Ireland
  50. L. F(a): China
  51. LI. F(b): Japan
  52. LII. F(c): Korea
  53. LIII. F(d): India, Myanmar (Burma), and Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
  54. LIV. F(e): Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos (French Indo-China)
  55. LV. F(i): Turkey , Near East, and Egypt
  56. LVI. G: Australasia
  57. LVII. G(a): Australia
  58. LVIII. G(b): New Zealand
  59. LIX. H: South Africa
  60. LX. K: Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia (Malaya, Netherlands East Indies)
  61. LXI. M: Lands Without National Organization

Related Materials

Numerous other record groups at the Divinity Library complement the documentation provided by Record Group No. 46. First and foremost, 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 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)
  5. World Student Christian Federation Geneva office records (RG 46F)


130 Linear Feet (316 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


This collection contains the official archives of the WSCF through 1925; later official archives were held in Geneva and now comprise RG 46F. Many documents in this collection date from after 1925. The World's Student Christian Federation was created in 1895 to fulfill its founders' vision of an international student Christian movement which could encourage and coordinate the work of existing national student Christian movements, as well as stimulate the formation of unified student movements in countries where they did not exist.

Biographical / Historical

The World's Student Christian Federation (WSCF) was created in 1895 to fulfill its founders' vision of an international student Christian movement which could encourage and coordinate the work of existing national student Christian movements, as well as stimulate the formation of unified student movements in countries where they did not exist. Advances in transportation and communication at the end of the nineteenth century made realization of this vision feasible for the first time. The work of the Federation was carried out through conferences and committee meetings, publications, exchanges of literature, and visits to national movements by its secretaries and agents. The name of the organization was changed from World's Student Christian Federation to World Student Christian Federation in 1960.

The formation of the WSCF was a radical step toward ecumenical cooperation at a time when no other worldwide, non-Roman Catholic Christian agency based on independent national organizations existed. From its purely Protestant origins, it expanded its membership in 1911 to include Orthodox Christians. Roman Catholic Christians initially participated through collaborations with Pax Romana, the Catholic youth movement, and increased following the Second Vatican Council (1962-1967). The Federation served as a training ground for many individuals who later became prominent in the worldwide life of the Church, including Bishop Azariah of India, Bishop Honda of Japan, T.Z. Koo of China, Nathan Söderblom of Sweden, J.H. Oldham and William Temple of Great Britain, John R. Mott of the United States, and W.A. Visser 't Hooft of the Netherlands.

For the first twenty of the thirty years most thoroughly documented by Record Group No. 46, the WSCF focused its energies on the formation and stabilization of national student movements, calling students to the Christian faith and the evangelization of the world. The First World War and its aftermath changed the emphases of the Federation as social problems, international relations, and the issues of pacifism and war came to the foreground. In 1920, the WSCF founded European Student Relief, a vast program of social service to thousands of students which lasted for five years. The work of European Student Relief later was carried on by an independent body called International Student Service.

At the High Leigh conference of the WSCF in 1924, men and women from thirty-five different nations were represented. The growing pains of the Federation were evident as tensions surfaced regarding administrative and theological issues. The leadership of the Federation sought to make these tensions a strength of the organization, rather than a liability. As J.H. Oldham expressed it in the WSCF journal Student World (Oct. 1925): "The Federation has realized that fullness of life is found in the tension between opposites, and that when two opposite but complementary principles claim our allegiance, what is needed is not to surrender one of them or to adopt some feeble and half-hearted compromise, but to hold fast to both and follow each as far as it will carry us. If the Federation is able to keep a firm grasp on this great truth, it will be able to render a service of which the world is in urgent need."

The WSCF has played the role of international interpreter and mediator for national student Christian movements through decades of changing issues and goals. Its structures and activities have provided a unique opportunity for focused study of student religious life throughout the world.

Processing Information

Country names were modernized in the description, with the name originally used in parenthesis (e.g. “Thailand (Siam)”); however, the original alphabetical ordering is maintained (e.g. “Thailand (Siam)” filed under “S”). Existing regional groupings were also maintained, so materials pertaining to a specific country may be found both in an individual and a regional file (e.g. “Peru” under both “Peru” and “South America”). Certain aspects of the original classification system reflect a racialized bias towards white Protestant Europeans. In cases where this bias became particularly salient, the folder titles have been modernized, with the original language in parentheses (for example, "B127.7 Black students (originally "Blacks")").

Guide to the World Student Christian Federation Records
1984, 1989, 2015
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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