Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Conversion of the Maori: Years of Religious and Social Change, 1814-1842

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Conversion of the Maori: Years of Religious and Social Change, 1814-1842

Article excerpt

The Conversion of the Maori: Years of Religious and Social Change, 1814-1842. By Timothy Yates. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2013, Pp. xxv, 150. $30.00, paper.)

In the decades following the American Revolution, the British expanded their reach around the world and laid the foundation for the most extensive empire in history. Sometimes wittingly and sometimes not, missionaries played an important role in the imperial process. In the late nineteenth century British children night have learned about missionaries as sorts of infallible heroes lifting the veils of savage darkness in distant, dangerous places (thesis). And then the general story ran to a different extreme: the missionary as racist destroyer of culture (antithesis). Timothy Yates' Conversion of the Maori joins the recent move toward synthesis-toward a more complicated, and accurate, understanding of missionary motivation and effort. A docent of mission studies at the University of Uppsala (Sweden), Yates shows us that some missionaries were courageous idealists, and some were misfits looking for a place of power in the world. Some missionaries disliked the people among whom they worked, and some came to admire them. Some missionaries held themselves to the high standards they preached to others, and others, far from home, lived double lives.

Among New Zealand's early missionaries was Samuel Marsden, who studied Maori society and "felt interested in their temporal and spiritual welfare" (14). This interest held even through the reception of difficult news, such as when Marsden learned that "Maori had set upon the brig Boyd at Whanaroa ... and had killed and eaten the crew" (15). Thinking that the benefits of western civilization would pave the way for religious conversion, Marsden supported the settlement of carpenters and other artisans. …

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