Skip to main content

Miner Searle Bates Papers

Call Number: RG 10

Scope and Contents

Bates was a faithful collector of letters, reports, and writings relating to his own life and work. He was a thorough, if somewhat disorganized, scholar, familiar with nearly all available publications in his field of specialization. Being the personal records of a professional historian, the Bates Papers provide not only documentation of Bates' own career as missionary, academic and author, but also an impressive collection of information related to the history of Christianity in China.

Bates' work in China spanned the years 1920 to 1950 and included leadership roles at the University of Nanking and in relief work during World War II. He was a highly educated missionary, who observed and reported on the Chinese context in which he lived. Following his return from China, Bates continued to be prominent in the field of missions as a professor at Union Seminary and author of many articles and papers. His expertise was much in demand by organizations such as the International Missionary Council, World Council of Churches, National Council of Churches, and United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. He was called upon to participate in many study groups and conferences.

It was no doubt the extent of these demands, added to Bates' own penchant for thoroughness, which prevented the completion of his magnum opus. At the time of his death in 1978 Bates had been striving for over fifteen years to produce a concise survey of Christian effort in Chinese society from 1900 to 1950. By 1971 he had developed "card indexes for several thousand books, pamphlets, articles seen to be of value or prospective value . . ." He had taken notes on major mission periodicals and yearbooks, on "documents of all types from China Continuation Committee 1913-1921, National Christian Council and its various units 1922-1950; about 200 biographies including Chinese; writings of a number of Chinese leaders; selected Chinese journals; histories of individual missions, organizations, institutions, many dissertations and theses, selected unpublished papers, letters and 'oral history' transcriptions". (From "Some Indicators of What Has Been Done," Series III Box 116, Folder 993.) These raw materials -- bibliographic references, notes, and annotated photocopies -- comprise a major portion of this manuscript group. In many cases, the information Bates had collected is readily available elsewhere, but there is also unique material here. The over 3,000 pages of drafts which Bates had completed by 1978 constitute a major achievement in themselves.

Series I, Correspondence, is divided into three sections: Family Correspondence, China Era Correspondence (from the period when Bates was serving in China) and General Correspondence (primarily from the period after Bates' return from China). Of particular interest in the Family Correspondence are letters written by Bates to wife and sons during 1937 and 1938 when he was serving as an organizing member of the Nanking International Safety Zone Committee, chairman of the Nanking International Relief Committee, director of economic and social surveys, and investigator of opium and heroin traffic in Japanese-occupied territory. These letters, those in the China Era Correspondence from the same time period, and reports and memoranda found in Series II and Series VI together provide detailed description of a turbulent situation.

The family letters include letters such as one from Bates to his sister regarding the mental health of a Ginling College professor. Informative circular letters written by Bates and his wife for distribution to friends and supporters are found in both the China and General Correspondence sections. Letters from colleagues and students seeking Bates' counsel or assistance form a large portion of the General Correspondence. There are also letters related to various projects and institutions with which Bates was involved, including the International Missionary Council China Study Project (1954-1956), the China Records Project (1968-1973), and the Missionary Research Library at Union Theological Seminary (1951-1978).

Series II, China Notes and Sources, contains the materials which Bates had gathered in preparation for writing his survey of Christian effort in China. This large mass of bibliographic references, handwritten and typed notes, summaries, and annotated photocopies came to the Library in a chaotic state. The materials have been organized in eight sections but since Bates often made carbon copies of notes and duplicated photocopies for distribution in different categories, some of the material may appear in more than one section. A small amount of material related to China but without direct application to Bates' projected book has been included in this Series. The notes and sources of Series II are organized in eight categories:

  1. A. Material arranged by outline number (according to outline devised by Bates).
  2. B. Material arranged by author or editor of source monographs, essays and theses.
  3. C. Periodical articles, arranged by author.
  4. D. Notes, photocopies, and summaries from periodicals.
  5. E. Miscellaneous notes and references on 3" x 5" cards or sheets of paper.
  6. F. Miscellaneous notes and references on 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" sheets of paper.
  7. G. Mixed format notes and sources related to: organizations, conferences, topics.
  8. H. Chinese language sources.

Whenever convenient, the material has been arranged according to the outline which Bates had devised, indicating time period and subject matter. In most cases, only material which is clearly marked with one outline number has been included Section A. The sorting was complicated by the fact that Bates apparently was working from more than one outline; some notes are clearly marked with an outline number which does not exist in the final outline or which does not represent the same subject area. These items have been filed under the correct outline number whenever possible. Bates often dictated running notes on an entire monograph, essay or thesis and then went back to indicate appropriate outline numbers in the margins of the typed copy. In other cases he photocopied sections of works and annotated the copies with outline numbers in the margins. Section B of Series II contains notes and photocopies which are applicable to more than one outline section and therefore could not be filed easily by outline number. This material has been filed by author, with titles provided for a selected list of more interesting or obscure monographs, essays or theses. Many of the sources represented in this section are widely available but others are unpublished theses, papers and memoirs which may be of considerable interest to researchers. Periodical articles by a variety of authors have been organized in Section C of Series II in order to indicate the types of source material which Bates collected and retained in his files. Some of these articles are readily available elsewhere while others are from fairly obscure journals. Bates spent a great deal of time systematically going through major mission periodicals to dictate notes on items of interest. Comprehensive notes are available in Section D on the China Christian Year Book,China Mission Year Book, China Missionary Bulletin, Chinese Recorder, Educational Review and other periodicals. The notes and references in 3" x 5" and 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" format of Sections E and F have been left in the order in which they were received. Extensive sorting would be required to find material of value among these myriad slips of paper. These include materials related to the Church of Christ in China, the International Missionary Council China Study Group, and the National Christian Council of China. Bates was very much at home with the Chinese language and also employed native Chinese speakers to take notes on Chinese language sources. The value of the notes, bibliographic references and photocopies of Chinese language sources in Section H will need to be determined by someone skilled in the Chinese language.

Series III, "Christian Effort in Chinese Society" Drafts, is in many ways the core of this manuscript group, containing over 3,000 pages of drafts for Bates' proposed book. The drafts include topical drafts that are write-ups of specific subjects, working drafts prepared to coincide with the detailed outline which Bates had developed, and revised working drafts, rewritten to improve their quality and decrease length. These drafts may be of more interest to the informed layperson than to the scholar. They are evaluated elsewhere by the work of Cynthia McLean for the National Council of Churches.

Series IV, Documentation of Prominent Chinese Christians, contains material collected by Bates as part of a project designed to supplement and complement his survey of Christian effort in Chinese society. In the first stage of this project Bates compiled a set of seven lists from various sources documenting Chinese Christians and sent the set to "Select Friends Whose Interest and Cooperation are Trusted". This effort resulted in a set of five revised lists which were broadly distributed to obtain corrections and additional information. Series IV contains full sets of lists from both stages of the project, drafts and notes related to them, and responses from over fifty individuals to whom the lists were sent. The Series concludes with a section of biographical sketches of varying completeness for twenty-seven Chinese Christians.

Series V contains notes and source materials collected by Bates that are not directly related to China. The first two sections of the Series, notes in 3" x 5" and 5 1/2'' x 8 1/2" format, have been left essentially as they were received; some broad topical areas are indicated, but with little recognizable order. A third section of mixed format notes and collected material is somewhat more organized. Of particular interest are documents relating to various aspects of religious liberty.

Series VI documents in a very complete way Bates' writings on missions and Third World churches, religious liberty, and a host of other topics. The Series is divided into five sections:

  1. A. Articles, pamphlets, papers
  2. B. Book reviews
  3. C. Reports and memoranda from China
  4. D. Sermons, addresses, interviews
  5. E. Related to major works

The writings in section A date from throughout Bates' career. Not surprisingly, many of them relate to the religious and political situation in China. Bates wrote regularly for periodicals such as Christianity and Crisis and World Call; he contributed articles to various encyclopedias. The book reviews in section B were written by Bates; reviews of his own works are in section E. The reports and memoranda from China are primarily unpublished typescript materials and may be of considerable interest to researchers studying the situation in Nanjing (Nanking), especially during World War II.

The Course Related Materials of Series VII date primarily from Bates' years at Union Theological Seminary where he taught courses on missions, Christian ethics and practical theology. Bates was also a leading force in the Program of Advanced Religious Studies (PARS) at Union.

Series VIII, Personal items and memorabilia, contains detailed biographical information and other related materials.


  • 1836-1979


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Bates family.


  1. I. Correspondence, 1920-1978, undated
  2. II. China Notes and Sources, 1836-1978, undated
  3. III. "Christian Effort in Chinese Society" Drafts
  4. IV. Documentation of Prominent Chinese Christians
  5. V. Other Notes and Collected Material, 1928-1978, undated
  6. VI. Writings, 1924-1975, undated
  7. VII. Course Related Materials, 1942-1965, undated
  8. VIII. Personal Items and Memorabilia


55 Linear Feet (132 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


These papers document Bates' career as a missionary, academic, and author. They also include an extensive collection of information for his book on Christian effort in Chinese society from 1900 to 1950, which he was in the process of writing at the time of his death. There are over 3,000 pages of drafts for this book included in the collection. The papers include correspondence, notes, writings, and printed material related to Bates' work in Nanjing (Nanking), China, particularly his role in relief work during World War II. Miner Searle Bates (1897-1978) was educated at Hiram College (B.A., 1916), Oxford University (B.A., 1919; M.A., 1920), and Yale University (Ph.D., 1935). He was a missionary, professor of history at the University of Nanking, China from 1920-1950, organizing member of Nanking International Safety Zone Committee and chairman of Nanking International Relief Committee, 1939-1941, and professor of missions, Union Theological Seminary, New York, 1950-1965.

Biographical / Historical

1897 May 28
Born in Newark, Ohio
B.A. Hiram College, of which father, Miner Lee Bates, was President 1908-1930
Oxford University, Rhodes Scholar
Secretary for International Y.M.C.A. on war service, India and Mesopotamia
Oxford University; completed B.A. in Honour School of Modern History, two further terms in political science and general history for M.A.
1920 July
Commissioned as missionary of United Christian Missionary Society
Professor of History, University of Nanking, China
Married Lilliath Robbins who became the mother of Morton Gaylord (1926) and Robert Searle (1928)
Rockefeller Foundation Fellow in Harvard University
Ph.D., Yale University
Seven visits to Japan on behalf of Christian organizations
Remained in Nanjing (Nanking) when University of Nanking removed to Chengdu (Chengtu), West China, in charge of maintenance of University activities and properties. Organizing member, Nanking International Safety Zone Committee. Member and chairman (1939-1941) of Nanking International Relief Committee.
Professor of Missions, Union Theological Seminary, New York

For additional information see Series VIII, Box 126, Folder 1132.

Processing Information

Place names were modernized in the description, with the name originally used in the collection material or in an older version of the finding aid in parenthesis: e.g. “Beijing (Peking)” or “Benin (Dahomey)”.

Guide to the Miner Searle Bates Papers
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

409 Prospect Street
New Haven CT 06511 US
(203) 432-5301

Opening Hours