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The Empire of Clouds in north-east India

In 1841, the Welsh sent their first missionary, Thomas Jones, to evangelise the tribal peoples of the Khasi Hills of north-east India. This book follows Jones from rural Wales to Cherrapunji, the wettest place on earth and now one of the most Christianised parts of India. It is about the piety and practices, the perceptions and prejudices of people in early nineteenth century Wales. The book is also about the ways in which the religious ambitions of those same people operated upon the lives and ideas of indigenous societies of the distant Khasi Hills of north-eastern India. It foregrounds broader political, scientific, racial and military ideologies that mobilised the Khasi Hills into an interconnected network of imperial control. Its themes are universal: crises of authority, the loneliness of geographical isolation, sexual scandal, greed and exploitation, personal and institutional dogma, individual and group morality. In analysing the individual lives that flash in and out of this history, the book is a performance within the effort to break down the many dimensions of distance that the imperial scene prescribes. It pays attention to a 'networked conception of imperial interconnection'. The book discusses Jones's evangelising among the Khasis as well as his conflicts with church and state authority. It also discusses some aspects of the micro-politics of mission and state in the two decades immediately following Thomas Jones's death. While the Welsh missionary impact was significant, its 'success' or indeed its novelty, needs to be measured against the pre-existing activities of British imperialists.

was conveyed from Chhatak on an elephant. 13 ‘God is in her belly, and who can pull him out?’ In the decade or so prior to the arrival of the Welsh missionaries, elements of Khasi religion had been superficially described by European visitors to the hills, though they barely advanced on late eighteenthcentury characterisations of the tribes of

in Welsh missionaries and British imperialism
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anthropological discourses 10 to depict an insular, even degenerate society, where primitive skill levels and ‘centuries of stagnation’ left it ripe and right for the picking by external influences, including Welsh missionaries. 11 The views of social anthropologist B.B. Kumar represent a growing critique of the dominant isolationist narrative of the north-east that belies its

in Welsh missionaries and British imperialism
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accommodate acceptance of the benefits of education and modernisation brought by the missionaries. 19 While the Welsh missionary impact was significant, its ‘success’ or indeed its novelty, as this book has suggested, needs to be measured against the pre-existing activities of British imperialists, from Robert Lindsay to Carey’s Serampore envoys and David Scott. Successive missions by Catholics and American

in Welsh missionaries and British imperialism

Hughes, Pontrobert. Davies and Hughes had for a time conducted an itinerant school established by Thomas Charles, and prior to his missionary career Davies had been teaching at Llanwyddelan. 34 Thomas Jones’s family roots were therefore not only embedded in the heartland of Calvinistic Methodism, but were intimately linked with the first Welsh missionary activities under the

in Welsh missionaries and British imperialism

wives, the stereotype of Christian propriety can be tested against the lived experiences of the Welsh missionaries. If the missionary couple and family was a central axis of missionisation, then the Welsh mission was a textbook study of disequilibrium. While the work of the mission in Christianising and educating the Khasi people proceeded steadily through the 1840s, it is

in Welsh missionaries and British imperialism
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. Finally, for Colonel Fitzwilliam Thomas Pollok and his hunting party, the petty lives of low Welsh missionaries or lesser civil servants were just part of the scenery. Rebels and schismatics: Thomas Jones II ostracised Thomas Jones II had spent eleven continuous years in India before leaving in 1868 for two years furlough in Wales. When he returned

in Welsh missionaries and British imperialism

was pregnant with their fifth child Octavius, and the William Lewin who greeted the Joneses at the top of their climb up the mountain was a diseased soldier whose life was ‘a perpetual agony’. At one level worlds apart, as professed Christians the paternalistic sympathies of an English soldier and a Welsh missionary, both rooted in a discourse of missionary philanthropy and

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-colonial inheritors of empire. For Aled Jones, the history of the Welsh missionaries is inescapably a story about the Welsh themselves. ‘Only by telling their story in this way’, he demands, ‘can the Welsh, finally, bring their missionaries home’. 9 In the Australian context too, Antonia Finnane has regretted the way in which Australians have shied away from the personal connections and implications of broader

in Welsh missionaries and British imperialism
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Two places at once

Pier Head on 25 November 1840. After losing sight of the Welsh mountains and Ireland, Thomas and Ann headed for the Cape of Good Hope and on across the Indian Ocean to the Bay of Bengal. They were quite consciously the inheritors of those Welsh missionaries who had gone out under the auspices of the LMS – John Davies, Evan Evans, Isaac Hughes and Josiah Hughes. They left in

in Welsh missionaries and British imperialism