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Some comparisons, some reflections
Diane Robinson-Dunn

In addition to reiterating the arguments with regard to diversity and liberalism explained in the Introduction and supported throughout the book, the Conclusion compares the trajectories of the movements examined, Bahá’í, Woking Muslim Mission (WMM) and Zionist, and the networks that sustained them. It explains instances of parallelism with regard to Bahá’í and Zionist networks despite lack of alliance or affinity and addresses the similarities between the Bahá’í movement and the WMM despite their separate development and only occasional crossing of paths. The chapter explains how the book complicates common assumptions with regard to the metropole–periphery dynamic, for in each case the metropole was not the place of origin for the core or canonical ideologies of the movements in question but, rather, and significantly, it served as the international nexus where people from different, and often otherwise unconnected, parts of the world were able to meet, and therefore where equally diverse ideas could make their way from one area of the periphery to another, from periphery to outside the empire and vice versa. It observes how the book as a whole speaks to the complex ways that people and movements, already characterized by hybridity between Occident and Orient both culturally and practically, could intersect with an equally hybridized empire, during a period when the British state had reached the apogee of its expansion in the East, allowing those historical actors to realize goals that were independent of and therefore capable of outlasting the empire itself.

in An empire of many cultures
Bahá’ís, Muslims, Jews and the British state, 1900–20

With the outbreak of the First World War and British expansion into the Middle East, certain Bahá’í, Muslim and Jewish leaders found it necessary to form new relationships with the British government and its representatives, relationships which would prove to be of pivotal importance for each and have a lasting impact on future generations. This book, based upon extensive archival research, explores how Bahá’ís in England and Palestine, Muslim missionaries from India based in Woking and Jews in England on both sides of the Zionist debate understood interactions with the British state and larger imperial culture prior to and during the war. One of the most significant findings of this study is that while an appreciation of diversity tends to be regarded as a modern, postcolonial phenomenon, a way to remedy the unjust remnants of an imperial past, the men and women of the early twentieth century whose words and actions come to life of the pages of this book understood diversity as a defining characteristic of the empire itself. They found real meaning and value in the variety of religions, races, languages, nations, cultures and ethnicities that comprised that vast, global entity. This recognition of its diversity, along with certain British liberal ideals, allowed extraordinary individuals to find common ground between that state and their own beliefs, goals and aspirations, thus helping to lay the foundation for the eventual development of the Bahá’í Faith as a world religion, a new era of Muslim missionary activity in the West and a Jewish state in Palestine.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the cultivation of British–Bahá’í networks in England and the Middle East
Diane Robinson-Dunn

This chapter elucidates the relationship between the Bahá’í movement, the English people who were attracted to it and the British Empire, focusing on the early twentieth century and especially the First World War period. As British troops expanded into the Ottoman Middle East during that conflict, all three intersected in ways that would prove pivotal for Bahá’í history, marking the beginning of that persecuted movement’s establishment as a major world religion. This chapter explains how individual historical actors, from the movement’s leadership in the Haifa–Acre area, to the Bahá’ís in England, to (although to a lesser extent) the British officers and administrators in Palestine, were able to sift through a variety of principles, beliefs and representations culturally available to them in order to create systems of meaning that made new Bahá’í–British relationships possible. Areas of common ground included certain shared liberal, democratic ideals; a global perspective that included people from many different ethnic, racial, religious and national backgrounds; and a willingness to cross familiar boundaries between “East” and “West,” even as those concepts were created and recreated in the process.

in An empire of many cultures
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Valuing diversity in an empire of many cultures
Diane Robinson-Dunn

This chapter introduces the reader to the book’s topics, argument and methodology. It relates the surprising parallelisms between the developments of Bahá’í, Muslim and Jewish thought under the auspices of the British Empire and addresses their significance with regard to modern concerns, including multiculturalism and the ongoing Zionist debates. The chapter then goes on to describe how the historical circumstances, the outbreak of the First World War and the British–Ottoman conflict within it, did not cause but nevertheless provided the necessary support for the words and actions of the individuals in question. It explains what is meant by the term “ideologies of imperial intersection” with regard to the Bahá’í and Woking Muslim Misson leaders who created systems of meaning based upon a combination of their own traditions, beliefs and goals, on the one hand, and ideals and practices from the larger British imperial culture, on the other. Finally, it explains why Zionism and its meaning for Jews living in England during the early twentiethtwentieth century can best be understood in terms of debate.

in An empire of many cultures
Muslim missionaries from India solidify their new base in England during a time of crisis
Diane Robinson-Dunn

This chapter explains how the Woking Muslim Mission (WMM) established a new, distinctly twentieth-century version of Islam in England, one that fostered hybridity between “East” and “West” on multiple levels and celebrated the diversity of believers that that body could attract as a result of its location in the English metropole. According to its founders, the fact that people from a variety of religious, racial, cultural and linguistic backgrounds participated in mosque events in Woking and/or declared themselves to be Muslims through the WMM’s international publication testified to the universality of Islam. The chapter describes how Muslims from India drew from both their own religious writings and practices, on the one hand, and certain British liberal and imperial traditions, on the other, in order to develop a system of meaning that made possible the creation of the WMM in 1913. It then explains how, in the following year, when the outbreak of the First World War and British–Ottoman conflict within it threatened the organization’s ability to continue its work in England, its leaders and other supporters elaborated upon their existing ideology of imperial intersection by calling attention to the ways that Islam could contribute to the war effort, focusing on the importance of the British Muslim soldier. By serving the religious needs of those men during a time of crisis, the WMM succeeded in solidifying its place in English society. As a result, it emerged from the war as both a base and a model for future missionary activity in the British Isles and Europe.

in An empire of many cultures
Diane Robinson-Dunn

This chapter examines how the Zionist debates among Jews in England took a new imperial turn as that nationalist movement became increasingly imbricated with the British state during the First World War period. Part I of the chapter introduces the reader to the terms of debate prior to that conflict, beginning by addressing how resistance to Zionism was rooted in a commitment to emancipation based on certain liberal ideals and traditions as expressed by the leadership of the Anglo-Jewish communal institutions in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It also explains how the English Zionist Federation served as a conduit for a new Central European nationalist culture, bringing the ideology, representations and organizational structure of early twentieth-century political Zionism to England and the British Isles. Part II of the chapter details the imperial turn taken by both Zionist and anti-Zionist Jewish leaders in England, beginning with the outbreak of the First World War and through the years immediately following the San Remo Conference. It shows how, during that time, representatives on both sides of the debate created and advanced new arguments based not only on the expectation of a British-controlled Palestine but also on the understanding of that empire, and even of English society, as characterized by diversity, as both were comprised of people with various religious, ethnic and national identities. Finally, the chapter as a whole explores the use of Orientalist ideas by both the advocates of Zionism and their opponents.

in An empire of many cultures
Life as ordinary
Hugh Morrison

This chapter examines the third overlapping narrative lens – that of missionary children. It picks up on the first of two interwoven narrative threads – ‘life as ordinary’. Interviewees referred to such things as family life, the home, language, food, mission personnel, recreation and schooling as key elements of their childhood memories. The chapter therefore highlights representative features of these domestic lives, giving prominence to ex-children’s oral memories and reflections, together with other published and non-published sources. Three main analytical emphases are domesticity, primary education and play. In so doing it uses oral history sources to discern how historical participants curate or make sense of their childhoods, while also considering such narratives as both culturally constructed and negotiated. The chapter argues that these experiences, while common across mission settings, differed according to things like the age of the child, family dynamics, parental disposition, cultural and political settings, decade and gender. It concludes by reflecting on the nature of memory and the role of emotional narratives in terms of their imprint on memory. Children’s narratives are primarily emotional narratives.

in Protestant missionary children’s lives, c.1870–1950
Life as complicated
Hugh Morrison

This chapter extends the examination of the third overlapping narrative lens – that of missionary children. It picks up on the second of two interwoven narrative threads – ‘life as complicated’. Three broad themes emerge – identity, mobility and family separation. Interviewees indicated that while complications occurred most often in their daily domestic spaces, these were amplified further through the complexities of travel, relocation and family separation which, for the most part, related to or were compelled by the perceived educational needs of the children or the changed circumstances of their families. Again, the interviews and memoirs reveal that these complications varied with respect to things like family dynamics, personality, place in the family, gender, geographical or cultural location, decade and politics but were also further complicated by such exigencies as war, ill health and death. The chapter argues that this facet of missionary children’s lives is helpfully elaborated through a close analysis of three emphases that cut across the themes. One is ‘complex experiences’, using language, mobility and varied educational experiences. A second is children’s separation from families, examined from children’s perspectives and as a further, more complex, example of emotional labour. Here a case study of the Scottish missionary children’s homes indicates that ‘emotional frontiers’ rather than ‘emotional communities’ is better applied as an analytical concept. The third emphasis is on the formation of identity and the legacy of missionary childhoods for later adult lives.

in Protestant missionary children’s lives, c.1870–1950
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Hugh Morrison
in Protestant missionary children’s lives, c.1870–1950
Hugh Morrison

This chapter examines the second overlapping narrative lens – that of the employing institutions. Such narratives were oftentimes catalysed by parents’ concerns, which in turn led to consequent organisational debates and policy making. The chapter argues that there was a clear, but not always exclusive, convergence between family narratives emphasising separation or disadvantage and institutional narratives focused on mitigation of these problems. Within this convergence emerged the dilemma that parenthood posed for adults motivated towards missionary service, and how this impinged on both mission policy and pragmatics. Institutional narratives reveal primarily a discourse that stressed the impact of separation on parents. The chapter addresses three key elements. First, it outlines how children were variously thought about and represented in policy making, using selected British or Anglo-world examples and building on literary representations previously considered. Second, it examines the phenomenon of children’s missionary homes as an expression of the institutionalisation of separation, indicating how an emotional discourse of domestic stability and happiness was used to represent these homes to church constituencies. Third, it indicates how institutional narratives began to change. The 1930s marked a partial turning point in official rhetoric, with the emergence of an academic and professional discourse that moved towards a more child-centred approach to missionary children’s lives.

in Protestant missionary children’s lives, c.1870–1950