The Missionary Factor in East Africa

By Roland Oliver | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
MISSIONARY WORK DURING THE PIONEER PERIOD, 1856-85

1

AS BISHOP STEERE pointed out, the facts of the case hardly justified the popular conception of missionary work as 'sitting under a tree talking to a native'.1 The missions became a power in the land, and not a spiritual power only. In Buganda, as at Zanzibar, the native political authority was firmly enough established to include the stranger within its protection. Elsewhere even the missionary who set out with a few dozen porters and tried to settle in a native village had to set up what amounted to a small independent state. He was recognised as a kind of chief by the headmen round about, and to a greater or lesser extent the Sultan of Zanzibar and the British or French consul were felt to be behind him, as they were felt to be behind any other head of a caravan manned with porters from the coast.2 The men he brought with him were under his jurisdiction from the start, and, as time went on, some of the local inhabitants, perhaps political exiles, perhaps fugitive slaves, perhaps tribal misfits, perhaps religious converts, would come and settle on his land. However much he might seek in his

____________________
1
Heanley, op. cit., p. 203
2
W. P. Johnson, My African Reminiscences, London, 1898, p. 126. 'We were in the position of well-to-do squires....'

-50-

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