Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba

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Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba.

By J. D. Y. Peel. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 2000. Pp. xi, 420. $49.95.

Since the era of European colonialism, anthropologists have been numbered among the fiercest critics of Christian missions. One great exception has been J. D. Y. Peel, an anthropologist-turnedhistorian who is presently associated with the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Peel's most recent book, Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba, is arguably the first great piece of historical writing on the implantation of Christianity in Africa of the twenty-first century. Making use of the letters and reports of Church Missionary Society agents, Peel constructs a narrative of the first fifty years of the Yoruba encounter with Christianity with the twin goals of explaining, first, Christianity's appeal and, second, the initial stages of Christian assimilation.

Trained as an anthropologist, Peel is most sensitive to the symbolic/cognitive aspects of culture, and his explanations reflect these instincts. Yorubaland was in the throes of wars between city-states and the big men who ruled these states when Christianity appeared. …