School of History

Empires of Religion - HI6030

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Convenor 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18

The information below applies to the 2015-16 session


'At the height of the imperial age church people liked to argue that religion and the British empire were inseparable - that the visible, commercial and political empire was woven into the fabric of another, invisible country - a spiritual empire.'

Hilary M Carey, Empires of Religion, p. 1.

This module will critically interrogate Carey’s above assertion by asking how far can missionaries be considered agents of imperialism? In so doing it will interact with issues of how we define imperialism, how useful the idea of cultural imperialism can be to the modern historian, and how we might talk meaningfully about 'the colonising project'. Students will be introduced to the history of the British Empire and more broadly the history of British cultural engagement and encounters with indigenous peoples within and outside of the empire. You will analyse and discuss the socio-economic, cultural and religious impact of Christian mission in the 'age of expansion', and will tease out issues of cultural encounters, indigenous agency and resistance, race, racism and cultural chauvinism. We will explore the impact of mission literature and experience on the British public's own imaginative engagement with non-western peoples, and will use an exciting and diverse range of textual, visual and oral sources. Students will emerge with a complex understanding of colonialism, in all its variegated forms, and how it has shaped (and continues to shape) the modern world in which we live today.


Contact hours
3 hours per week. Topics to be covered 1. Introduction I: Missionary evangelicalism. 2. Introduction II: Defining imperialism. 3. Introduction III: Missions and empire. 4. Missions and empire in North America and the Caribbean. 5. Anti-Slavery, Christianity and imperial trusteeship. 6. READING WEEK 7. Missions and empire in Australasia and the Pacific. 8. Who were evangelical missionaries? 9. Missions and empire in Africa. 10. Gender, religion and empire (I): men & missionary masculinity. 11. Missions and empire in Asia. 12. Gender, religion and empire (II): women & mission femininity. 13. Christianity, commerce and civilisation. 14. Cultural encounters vs. cultural imperialism 15. Missions and race: settler, indigene, missionary. 16. Indigenous agency and indigenised Christianity. 17. Institutionalisation I: missionary education 18. READING WEEK 19. Institutionalisation II: missionary medicine 20. Complicity and resistance in imperial expansion. 21. The home base: missions and empire at home 22. Missions, literature, and the mediation of knowledge 23. Missionary heroism: remembering evangelical missionaries 24. The bible and the flag: missions and empire.

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed by coursework and exam on a 40% coursework and 60% exam ratio. The coursework component will be assessed as follows: 1) 2 x 10-minute oral presentation (10% each = 20) 2) 4 x 1,000-word source commentary (10% each = 40) 3) 2 x 3,000-word thematic essay (20% each = 40) The exam component will be assessed through in 2 x two–hour exams – which will make up 60% (30% each) of the final mark for the module.

Preliminary reading

  • • Carey, Hilary M. (ed), Empires of religion (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008). • Cox, Jeffrey, The British missionary enterprise since 1700 (London: Routledge, • 2008). • Etherington, Norman, Missions and Empire, Oxford History of the British Empire Companion Series (Oxford University Press, 2005). • Hall, Catherine, Civilising subjects: metropole and colony in the English imagination, 1830-1867 (Oxford: Polity, 2002). • Levine, Philippa, The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset (2007). • Porter, Andrew (ed), The Imperial Horizons of British Protestant Missions, 1880- • 1914 (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2003). • Porter, Andrew, Religion versus empire? British protestant missionaries and overseas expansion, 1700-1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004). • Robert, Dana L., Christian Mission: How Christianity became a world religion (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). • Stanley, Brian, The Bible and the flag: Protestant missions and British imperialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Apollos, 1990).

Learning outcomes

  • As a consequence of taking this module all students will have 1. acquired a thorough knowledge of Britain’s colonial encounter in the years 1780-1914. 2. developed strong analytical and critical skills and be able to evaluate and assess the imperial history of Christian mission. 3. developed the ability to understand and critically engage with complex historiographical debate and dispute. 4. developed an ability to critically analyse a range of primary sources including letters, diaries, journals, memoirs, published and unpublished material (among many others). 5. demonstrated independent learning skills by being able to make use of a wide range of high-level resources, including up-to-date research in peer-reviewed journals, information technology, relevant subject bibliographies and other primary and secondary sources. 6. demonstrated an ability to digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment, in either written or oral form. 7. demonstrated an ability to think critically about a range of complex and diverse topics relating to Britain’s history of global encounter.


No pre-requisites

School of History, Rutherford College, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NX

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Last Updated: 10/11/2011