Scots missions and the frontier
in The Scots in South Africa
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The experience of Scots missionaries on the Eastern Cape frontier was an extraordinarily ambivalent one. They arrived with a number of convictions: that Christianity was the essential concomitant of civilisation; that their message was so overwhelmingly liberating that it would blow down ‘barbarism’ like the walls of Jericho; and that, in the process, they would free women from drudgery and oppression, men from warfare and violence, as well as create enlightened agriculture, introduce the elevating forces of the market, and use science and medicine to free Africans of ‘superstition’. The landscape would be domesticated through the use of Scottish names, and the planting of trees and gardens. The reality was very different. The Scots missionaries encountered hostility from those they had come to ‘save’ as well as from the colonists who were supposedly their co-religionists, and were frequently overcome by war, frustrated by official policy and intimidated by an intractable environment. Many experienced geographical, meteorological and ethnic dislocation, which helped to compound their isolation, melancholia and depression.

The Scots in South Africa

Ethnicity, identity, gender and race, 1772–1914

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