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.
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.
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.
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.