The landmark text in the historiography of South African Christian missions was written not by a missiologist, a theologian, a historian, or an anthropologist but by a political activist. Adopting the pseudonym Nosipho Majeke, Dora Taylor published The Role of the Missionaries in Conquest in 1952 as a scathing indictment of the missionary project ( Majeke, 1952). More political tract than historical research, the text's sustained linkage of missionary activity with European conquest, commerce, and colonialism nevertheless marked a turning point in debates about the Christian mission. Prior to this point, the history of the mission could be told as a triumphalist narrative of the progress of the Christian gospel in South Africa. Beginning with the first general history by J. du Plessis ( 1911), the story of the Christian mission could be told, in the title of Charles Pelham Groves classic work, as a history of the "planting of Christianity in Africa" ( Groves, 1948- 1959). It was a history of African "improvement" and of Christian "development" under the influence of heroic Europeans, the "blessed missionaries" ( Eiselen, 1934; Smith, 1950). Certainly, missiologists could continue to tell that story. For example, in 1958 G. B. A. Gerdener updated Du Plessis' History of Christian Missions in South Africa to demonstrate the "restraining and directing influence of the Christian religion" in leading Africans on the path of "evolution from primitive ceremonies and customs to a civilized form of government" ( Gerdener, 1958). However, that story could no longer be taken seriously as an historical account.
Three phases can be identified in the subsequent history of missions. First, social theory was introduced into the analysis of what Bertram Hutchinson called, in an article published in 1957 that anticipated the direction that historical studies would increasingly adopt in the 1970s, the "social consequences of nineteenth-century missionary activity" ( Hutchinson, 1957). In assessing its