Missionaries and modernity

Education in the British Empire, 1830–1910

Author: Felicity Jensz

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.

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