Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Civilising Mission and the English Middle Class, 1792-1850: The 'Heathen' at Home and Overseas

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Civilising Mission and the English Middle Class, 1792-1850: The 'Heathen' at Home and Overseas

Article excerpt

The Civilising Mission and the English Middle Class, 1792-1850: The 'Heathen' at Home and Overseas. By Alison Twells. (Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, Pp. xiv, 353. $75.00.)

Utilizing the city of Sheffield as her focus, Alison Twells elucidates the emergence of missionary philanthropy, in its complementary domestic and foreign dimensions as well as in its largely inter-denominational aspect, as a formative element in the emergence of the English middle class in the late eighteen and early nineteenth centuries. She situates mission as part of a larger project of societal reform under the auspices of this emergent middle class, and traces how it evolved into a popular, mass movement, such that by the mid-nineteenth century support for mission had become normative in British mainstream society.

Twells clearly shows that by the 1820s the early progenitors of the movement (at least in Sheffield) came to resent the focus on overseas mission to the neglect of domestic needs. This concern was influenced by the emergent socialist and cooperative tendencies which promoted a more secular analysis of issues of poverty and societal reform. Added to this challenge was the increasing division among the missionary movement along denominational lines. Other than this shift in the 1820s and 1830s, her portrayal is of a seamless connection between foreign and domestic mission, so that issues like abolitionism, education, tempérance were intrinsically connected. Adjunct to this she recovers the role of women in the movement, providing an illuminative portrayal of the mother as formative, pedagogical influence in the home where she is able to inculcate a missionary influence in her children. She demonstrates that the more active involvement of women in mission occurred in the 1820s and 1830s. Prior to that, they gained valuable, formative experience domestically as collectors, Sunday school teachers, and society members. Initial involvement as missionary wives had altered from 1860 onward to independent activity. …

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