Encyclopedia of Mission and Missionaries. Edited by Jonathan Bonk. New York Routledge, 2007. Pp. xviii, 473. $190.
It was no mean task to attempt an encyclopedia on a topic of such vast scope. The series editor recognized this challenge by asking for a volume that would focus only on "central themes" and not cover "specific missionaries or mission organizations" (p. xi). It is important that readers understand this limitation, as the volume is misleadingly entitled, being neither encyclopedic nor about missionaries per se, even though many significant figures (e.g., John Mott) do get extensive coverage.
Although the volume is intended to "provide the nonspecialist with an overview" (p. xi) and is therefore of most value to students, the specialist reader will also find much that is useful here, from the essays that deal with emerging areas of research such as fiction, film, and music to the study of visual culture in essays on photography and archaeology. It offers access to research tools in entries on archives, bibliography, biography, and online resources and hence is a convenient starting place for further study and research. Above all, however, it is the thematic breadth, with entries ranging from "Africa" to "War," and the topics that occur across multiple entries (e.g., indigenization) that may prove most useful to scholars who wish to go beyond traditions of national narratives to a more cross-cultural and comparative perspective.
The editor, Jonathan Bonk, allowed the contributors considerable scope to develop their topics, and the results are generally of very high quality. Nonetheless, it is not always easy to use this volume, and it does require some hunting and imagination to track down some subtopics. The index is very helpful, but the see also notations are not used consistently. For example, the entry on war does not cross-reference China or opium, although …