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Educating Missions. Teachers and Catechists in Southern Tanganyika, 1890s and 1940s

  • Richard Hölzl

This article concentrates on Catholic mission teachers in Southern Tanzania from the 1890s to the 1940s, their role and agency in founding and developing the early education system of Tanzania. African mission teachers are an underrated group of actors in colonial settings. Being placed between colonized and colonizers, between conversion and civilising mission, between colonial rule and African demands for emancipation, between church and government and at the heart of local society, their agency was crucial to forming African Christianity, to social change and to a newly emerging class of educated Africans. This liminal position also rendered them almost invisible for historiography, since the colonial archive rarely gave credit to their vital role and European missionary propaganda tended to present them as examples of successful mission work, rather than as self-reliant missionary activists. The article circumscribes the framework of colonial education policies and missionary strategies, it recovers the teachers’ active role in the colonial education system as well as in missionary evangelization. Finally, it contrasts teachers’ self-representation with the official image conveyed in missionary media.

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Dr. Richard Hölzl is currently Theodor Heuss Lecturer at The New School for Social Research in New York. In 2017 he will resume his research project Conversion, Civilisation, Development: Catholic mission between Germany and East Africa, 1880s to 1940s funded by the German Science Foundation at Georg August University Göttingen, Seminar for Medieval and Modern History. His research focuses on colonialism and mission history, on German environmental history, and on twentieth century social and environmental movements. He thanks Rebekka Habermas, Samwel Shanga Mhajida and Nives Kinunda Ngullu for reading an earlier version of this article and for sharing their insights.

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Primary Sources
National Archive of the United Republic Tanzania (TNA)
Files of the German Colonial Administration (G9/3, G9/7, G43/3, G49/2)
Files of the British Administration in Tanganyika Territory (Acc. no. 155).
Archive of the Abbey St. Ottilia, Germany (ArchOtt)
Sig. Swahili Lehrmittel (Swahili teaching material)
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Z.1.16 Lindi 3: schools
Z.1.20 Peramiho 3 Apostolic Delegate Mombasa
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Archive of Peramiho Abbey, Tanzania (ArchPera)
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