God's Empire: Religion and Colonialism in the British World, C. 1801-1908

By Heavens, J. Edmund | International Bulletin of Missionary Research, January 2012 | Go to article overview

God's Empire: Religion and Colonialism in the British World, C. 1801-1908


Heavens, J. Edmund, International Bulletin of Missionary Research


God's Empire: Religion and Colonialism in the British World, c. 1801-1908. By Hilary M. Carey. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2011. Pp. xviii, 421. £60/$99.

"Why does the mere idea of empire now attract division," asks Hilary M. Carey, "when over a hundred years ago, imperial church gatherings . . . captivated the London métropole?" (p. xiii). God's Empire traces the waxing and waning in the cohesive strength of the "dense imperial religious networks" developed by the churches that ministered to the needs of the British diaspora colonizing "Greater Britain" during the nineteenth century (p. 68). Empire created transnational opportunities for the development of religious missions to both the indigenous and the colonizing peoples of the British world, but Carey seeks to understand why the former enterprise is still celebrated today, while the latter has almost been forgotten. Although her theoretical touch is light, with only a passing mention of hegemony or postcolonial theory, the author explicitly focuses upon the "Christian consensus which supported the expansion of the British world through the planting of religious institutions in every conceivable corner of the Empire" (p. xiv).

This excellent book is organized in four parts. The first discusses terms such as "Greater Britain" and traces how the "Protestant nation" expanded to become a "Christian empire" over the course of the nineteenth century (p. 40). The second examines the objectives of the various colonial missionary societies and the planting of a sectarian network of churches throughout Greater Britain.

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