Nineteenth-century evangelical Protestant missionary groups commonly assumed that they were the most apt providers of education to non-Europeans in British colonies. Christian schooling was deemed imperative for modernising societies to withstand secularising forces. This significant study examines this assumption by drawing on key moments in the development of missionary education from the 1830s to the beginning of the twentieth century. The book is the first to survey the changing ideologies behind establishing mission schools across the spectrum of the British Empire. It examines the Negro Education Grant in the West Indies, the Aborigines Select Committee (British Settlements), missionary conferences in 1860 and 1910 as well as drawing on local voices and contexts from Southern Africa, British India and Sri Lanka to demonstrate the changing expectations for, engagement with and ideologies circulating around mission schools resulting from government policies and local responses. By the turn of the twentieth century, many colonial governments had encroached upon missionary schooling to such an extent that the symbiosis that had allowed missionary groups autonomy at the beginning of the century had morphed into an entanglement that secularised mission schools. The spread of ‘Western modernity’ through mission schools in British colonies affected local cultures and societies. It also threatened Christian religious moral authority, leading missionary societies by the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910 to question the ambivalent legacy of missionary schooling, and to fear for the morality and religious sensibilities of their pupils, and indeed for morality within Britain and the Empire.
The Negro Education Grant and Nonconforming missionary societies in the 1830s
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.
In 1860, over 120 missionaries from various Protestant societies gathered together in Liverpool to discuss matters pertaining to missionary work in the British Empire. India was a primary focus of many of the discussions, including those on education, as the recent Indian Uprising of 1857 had prompted anxiety as to the stability of British rule in India. Missionary groups were quick to point out that no Christian Indians had joined in the violence and to assert that this was an indication both of the morally regulating effect provided by Christianity, and of the need for Christian religion to be taught in schools. At the Liverpool conference, the education of women was a major topic. Chapter 3 examines ideologies behind mission schooling for females in the third quarter of the nineteenth century through examining the Liverpool conference meetings and other writings by the Indian missionary Behari Lal Singh, who was the only non-European delegate at Liverpool. Singh was a strong advocate of female education, and after returning to India after the conference, he, with his teacher wife, established female orphan schools. Through reading Singh’s writings in the context of the Liverpool Missionary Conference and the broader role of women in missions of the period, the chapter particularly highlights the changing focus of some missionary groups to more explicitly include women in schooling, and in doing so demonstrates the central role which British and local women were ascribed in missionary modernity to facilitate the Christianisation of non-European societies.
The Select Committee on Aborigines (British Settlements)
After the abolition of slavery in British colonies, humanitarians in Britain turned their attention to the mistreatment of non-Europeans in British colonies, with a Select Committee on Aborigines (British Settlements) sitting from 1836 to 1837. This Committee was established during a time of intense debate on the morality of the British Empire, and on the fates of the millions of non-Europeans who were currently, and who would potentially come, under British rule. Within the report, a particular focus was placed on events in the Cape Colony and the current Xhosa Wars. The chapter examines in detail reference to schooling in the Select Committee Report and its broader context, and argues that in this Committee there was a significant yet subtle shift in emphasis from the term ‘religious and moral education’ used in the debates surrounding the Negro Education Grant to ‘religious instruction and education’. This change reflected the idea that the moral progress of non-Europeans was no longer the all-encompassing aim to be reached through Protestant education, rather that the term ‘education’ could be imbued or enhanced with skills that would be useful to current and future British settlements in the colonial world. The chapter demonstrates that a symbiotic relationship existed between government and Protestant missionary groups in providing schooling, but that the ultimate goals for both groups were subtly different.
Chapter 5 examines the outcomes of the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910 and in particular the report of Commission III, which was dedicated to examining ‘Education in relation to the Christianisation of National Life’. It declared that the educational work of missionaries over the century had largely failed in its aims to create a new generation of Christians. As with the Liverpool conference, at Edinburgh there was a specific focus upon women’s education, including discussions on the need to provide women in African Protectorates with low-level manual training as a form of moral education. Ideas of adaptive education were drawn from American ideas of schooling for African-Americans from the American commissioners of the report, with the inclusion of these ideas in the Commission III’s report demonstrating internationally transposable notions of race, class and morality. The chapter examines the recommendations given to ensure that missionary groups would be able to maintain their position as the self-appointed most appropriate providers of education to non-Europeans in light of three major pressures on missionary schooling: the spread of Islam, the increasing instigation of national educational systems, which in turn side-lined missionary efforts, and, finally, the increase in nationalist sentiments often expressed through anti-Western, anti-missionary stances. Through analyses of the discussions at Edinburgh, the chapter illustrates the ever-present struggle to reconcile missionary and government ideals, made all the more difficult by the necessity to compromise ideals on both sides in the face of local realities and demands.
The conclusion describes the constant struggle to reconcile missionary and government ideals, made all the more difficult by the necessity for both to compromise such ideals in the face of unforeseeable local realities. It argues that missionary groups constantly reshaped missionary schooling as the solution to moral anxieties throughout the British colonies. By the time of the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, 1910, the self-critical nature of the report on missionary education considered missionary schooling to have failed in creating a new generation of Christians, as it struggled against the forces of secular modernisation, nationalism and Islam. Missionary schooling was too entwined within government structures and too engrained in missionary ideology to contemplate relinquishing control of educational institutions, or to transfer them to secular or non-Christian groups. Rather than a break with the idea of missionary schooling, Edinburgh was a moment of reinvention as missionary groups sought to professionalise, and refashioned themselves as educational experts, particularly in the context of adaptive education in Africa. Through providing advice to governmental committees, missionaries ensured that their concept of missionary modernity, including ongoing investment in educational enterprises and the moral (re)formation of local groups, was secured into the twentieth century.
Chapter 4 focuses upon the Church Missionary Society in Sri Lanka, and by doing so explores the establishment of schools within this heterogeneous cultural, social and religious landscape. Through examining autobiographical writings of converts in Ceylon, the chapter explores the various roles Christian schooling played in influencing their life choices. Sri Lanka is a complex site where religious identities, castes and political identities were in constant flux. The chapter argues that in the framework of missionary modernity, morality, rather than academic aptitude, was the foremost quality that missionaries desired in their teachers. Yet for local people, the reasons to become teachers were complex and not just an expression of faith. In a second section, the chapter contrasts the relationship between government and Christian schools in Sri Lanka with examples in India. It argues that even under a liberal religious-equality model within a government system, as was practised in Sri Lanka, mission schools were progressively secularised over the century, partly due to the forces from outside and the demands of ‘modernisation’. In doing so, the chapter provides a framework in which to conceptualise government funding and inspection as a form of secularisation of mission schools.
Through a study of archival and press material, this chapter foregrounds the textual and teleological differences between two initially discrete discourse communities. It also charts the political convergence of the two, by highlighting the attempts to overcome the conceptual chasm between the Templers' millenarian, utopian plans and the secular imperialist agenda of the German Colonial Society and Pan-German League. By mapping these shifts, the chapter reveals the steady incorporation of the Templers within secular, nationalist imperialist plans, their ongoing religiosity notwithstanding. Prior to the German Templers, a number of other, predominantly American, religious colonies in Palestine had failed in their own attempts to establish a presence on behalf of the global Christian community. As religious communities motivated by an eschatological teleology, the Templer religious colonies represent not so much an intrinsically 'irrational' mode of colonialism, as a form of colonial praxis informed by a peculiar form of religious rationality.