Missions and Empire

By Norman Etherington; Roger Louis | Go to book overview

1
Introduction

NORMAN ETHERINGTON

The explosive expansion of Christianity in Africa and Asia during the last two centuries constitutes one of the most remarkable cultural transformations in the history of mankind. Because it coincided with the spread of European economic and political hegemony, it tends to be taken for granted as a reflex of imperialism. However, the precise connections between religion and Empire have yet to be fully delineated by historians. This book aims to make a contribution to the very small shelf of literature devoted to exploring those connections in a vast library of scholarship on the history of the Christian religion. Much work remains to be done.


Unfinished Business

Christian missions are also unfinished business for the Oxford History of the British Empire. Christian missions and missionaries are remarkable for their absence in the first five volumes. Only once do they occupy a whole chapter (volume V, Historiography, chapter 19). For the rest, extended discussion of the missionary role in Imperial history occurs only in Andrew Porter's chapters on religion and trusteeship in volume III and Nicholas Owen's chapter on critics of empire in volume IV. Missionaries briefly step onto centre stage in chapters on West Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the West Indies, but otherwise receive brief generic references (e.g. 'British missionaries as well as British businessmen required protection' (IV, p. 42); 'the most visible group among the British in China was one that many Consuls tended to regard as a nuisance: the missionaries' (III, p.158)). The marginal status of missions in volumes I to V contrasts markedly with the iconic importance accorded to the missionary in popular literature on Empire. J. A. Hobson memorably summarized the supposed sequence of imperial progress: 'first

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Missions and Empire
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • List of Contributors xi
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Prelude: the Christianizing of British America 19
  • 3: An Overview,1700–1914 40
  • 4: Humanitarians and White Settlers in the Nineteenth Century 64
  • 5: Where the Missionary Frontier Ran Ahead of Empire 86
  • 6: Christian Missions and the Raj 107
  • 7: New Christians as Evangelists 132
  • 8: 'trained to Tell the Truth': Missionaries, Converts, and Narration 153
  • 9: Women and Cultural Exchanges 173
  • 10: Language 194
  • 11: New Religious Movements 216
  • 12: Anthropology 238
  • 13: Education and Medicine 261
  • 14: Decolonization 285
  • Index 307
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