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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 June 2018
American interest in and knowledge of religion in India began before Americans imagined Hinduism as a coherent world religion. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century, Americans used a variety of terms to describe, represent, and imagine the religious culture of India: Gentoos, Hindoos, religion of the Hindoos, Hindoo religion, Brahmanism, heathenism, and paganism. Each term meant different things to different writers at different times. But there was no Hinduism, a world religion originating in India and comparable to others, in America prior to the late nineteenth century. Americans read and wrote about “Hindoos” and “Hindoo religion,” something altogether different from Hindus and Hinduism. This article analyzes two examples of American representations of Hindoo religion before Hinduism. First, it examines American missionary reports about “Hindoo heathenism” written by American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions missionaries and published in American missionary journals in the early nineteenth century. Second, it examines the Unitarian interest in Rammohun Roy and his growing popularity in New England during the 1820s and 1830s. Unitarian interest in Roy and ABCFM missionary reports exemplify the ways Protestant questions and interests shaped the American understanding of religions and the eventual construction of “world religions” such as Hinduism to suit American Protestant concerns.
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2. Ibid., 22. Emphasis in the original.
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4. Ibid., 8:366. Emphasis in original.
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38. Ibid., 101.
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44. Ibid., 69.
45. Ibid., 92.
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48. Ibid., 59–61.
49. “On the Ruinous Effects of Ardent Spirits,” The Panoplist, and Missionary Magazine 5, (February 1813): 416–17.
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91. “A Remarkable Hindoo Reformer,” 123; “Account of Rammohun Roy,” 69.
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99. Jackson identifies Tudor as the author of the anonymously published article, see his Oriental Religions and African Thought, 34.
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103. Roy, Rammohun, The Precepts of Jesus, the Guide to Peace and Happiness, Extracted From the Books of the New Testament Ascribed to the Four Evangelists. To Which Are Added the First and Second Appeal to the Christian Public, in Reply to the Observations of Dr. Marshman of Serampore (New York: B. Bates, 1825), xviii Google Scholar.
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