‘Liberal and comprehensive’ education
The Negro Education Grant and Nonconforming missionary societies in the 1830s
in Missionaries and modernity
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Chapter 1 presents a detailed examination of the Negro Education Grant of the 1830s, which provided ‘religious and moral education’ to the children of emancipated slaves. It analyses the educational landscape in Britain in order to contextualise the debates and discussions that led the instigation of the Negro Education Grant, particularly those debates that focused upon the term ‘liberal and comprehensive’. By focusing upon this term and imbuing it with their own meanings, numerous secretaries of evangelical missionary societies bounded together to assert their position as important partners for the Imperial government to work with to provide schooling to emancipated peoples. Schooling was not the only means by which evangelical missionary groups spread their message; however, it was the most amenable means by which they could collaborate with governments and become part of the colonial structure. The provision of missionary schooling was considered necessary to address the moral vacuum that was perceived to be left when the system of slavery was abolished in British colonies. Through arguing that they were the most apt providers of religious and moral education, Anglicans and Nonconformists increased their own standing in religious circles in Britain as their work was legitimised through collaboration with governments. Tellingly, the debates surrounding the Negro Education Grant did not include voices from those to be instructed under this system, which reflected the broader biases evident with the educational offerings of early nineteenth-century missionary societies towards transposing British educational ideas rather than incorporating local people’s expectations.

Missionaries and modernity

Education in the British Empire, 1830–1910

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