History of Christianity in India, Vol. III: Eighteenth Century. By E. R. Hambye, S.J. (Bangalore: The Church History Association of India. 1997. Pp. xxiv, 562.$40.00.)
This book is Volume III of a six-volume series on the History of Christianity in India prepared under the guidance of a distinguished editorial board and published from Bangalore by the interdenominational Church History Association of India. Together, the six volumes cover the history of Christianity in India from its inception as a result of Apostle Thomas' evangelization in the first century to the present time. This volume, as the title indicates, covers the eighteenth century.
The author, a Jesuit priest and Belgian by birth, spent over half a century in various parts of India as a professor in different Catholic institutions of higher learning. During that lengthy period, he gained familiarity with the languages and cultures of many regions of India and became a prime mover of studies in the history of the Church in India. Several books and numerous articles he authored earned him the reputation as the dean of Indian church history. This volume is his last work, his crowning achievement, and it is marked by original research, attention to details, and keen observation of the dynamics of local cultures and customs, typical of Hambye's lifelong scholarship.
The author starts the book with an introduction detailing the political conditions in the subcontinent during the eighteenth century; the factors that helped or hindered the extraordinary expansion of Christianity during this century; the religious orders and missionary groups, both foreign and native and Catholic and non-Catholic; and the various archival and bibliographical sources he used for each of the seven sections of the book. Each of these sections deals with a distinct geographical region of the subcontinent.
Hambye follows a common organizational scheme in all seven sections of the book that makes the massive amount of details in them manageable to the reader. He starts each section with a description of the political and socio-economic conditions of the region. Then he goes into the origin and historical evolution of the Christian communities in the region-treating each by denomination such as Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and others as well as by their numerical prominence in locations within the region. Here he elaborates in minute detail the dynamics of religious, social, political, communal, and interpersonal relations at play within each sect, between different Christian denominations, between Christians and non-Christians, and between each Christian community and the political authorities of the time. Significant in Hambye's narratives are also the true-to-life pictures he draws of the major Christian personalities of each group and their collaborations or rivalries with other leaders within their own denominations and outside. In the cases of Catholic leaders the author gives much prominence and space in describing their relationships with Rome. Hambye's description of the turmoil in Kerala in the aftermath of the death of Raphael Figueredo, the Vicar Apostolic of St. Thomas Christians, in 1695 is a case in point. He lines up the characters representing various interest groups as if across a chess board and describes their moves to gain dominance over the Malabar Church-the European Carmelites in Malabar persuading the Propaganda to send one of their own confreres, Angelo Francis of St. Teresia, to be consecrated as the successor to Figueredo; the only bishops in India at that time being Padroado (the claim of Portuguese kings that they had the right to oversee the governance of the Church, including the appointment of bishops, in the Eastern Hemisphere by virtue of the 1505 division of the globe by Pope Alexander VI between the Portuguese and Spanish to colonize and christianize) appointees who refused to consecrate Angelo Francis unless he subjected himself to Padroado authority; the sudden arrival of Bishop Simon of Ada, an emissary of the Chaldean Patriarch from the Middle East who traditionally provided bishops to the Catholics of Malabar; Simon of Ada trumping both the Padroado and Propaganda powers by consecrating Angelo Francis as Vicar Apostolic of St. …