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Late Nineteenth-Century Anglican Missionary Expansion: A Consideration of some Non-Anglican Sources of Inspiration

  • Andrew Porter (a1)


More than a decade ago, Max Warren suggested that the nature of protestant missionary expansion in the last quarter of the nineteenth century presented ‘some of the most perplexing features in the history of the modern missionary movement’; but the extensive ‘painstaking research’ which he called for into the metropolitan roots of that movement has hardly yet been forthcoming. Historians have more usually preferred to direct their attention to the impact of western missions outside Europe, and to consider their contribution to the modernisation of the non-European world. This growing body of published research unquestionably aids the would-be historian of metropolitan motives, but—for reasons requiring too much space for elucidation here—also makes his own work the more necessary if the expansive forces within western society are to be clearly understood and placed in perspective.



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1 Warren, M.A.C., Social History and Christian Mission (London 1967) p 143 and cap 7. This book and his other equally suggestive work, The Missionary Movement from Britain in Modem History (London 1965), are based on lectures delivered in Cambridge during 1964 and 1965.

2 Some historians of Africa have recently begun to press for a much wider examination of missionaries’ theological backgrounds; see J. D. Hargreaves, ‘Imperialist Religion’, unpubl seminar paper (university of Ibadan 1971), and Beidelman, T. O., ‘Social Theory and the Study of Christian Missions in AfricaAfrica 44 (London 1974) pp 235-49. I am very grateful to professor Hargreaves for showing me a copy of his paper.

3 Neill, S.C. A History ofCh istian Missions, The Pelican History of the Church 6 (Harmonds-worth 1964) cap 10 and p 323 ; also Stock, [E.], [The History of the Church Missionary Society. Its Environment, Its Men and Its Work], 3 vols (London 1899) 2 p 337 and passim.

4 Compare Norman, E., Church and Society in England 1770-1070. A Historical Study (Oxford 1976).

5 For the fullest recent study of the UMCA, Neave, D.R.J., ‘Aspects of the Universities Mission to Central Africa 1858-1900’, unpubl MPhil thesis (university of York 1975) and esp cap 6.

6 For earlier examples see, for example, Macmillan, W. M., Bantu, Boer, and Briton. The Making of the South African Native Problem (2 ed Oxford 1963). The trade in opium, liquor, and firearms was of great concern to missionaries even by 1870, and see speeches at the open conference on commerce and Christian missions in [Report of the Centenary Conference on the Protestant Missions of the World, ed Johnston, Jas], 2 vols (London 1888) 1 pp 111-37. Alongside these themes, the nationalist question emerged, and all permeate many papers delivered at the pan-anglican congress in 1908; see esp A. G. Fraser, ‘The Problem before Educational Missions in Ceylon’, and Byrde, L., ‘The Evangelical Method. China’, Pan-Anglican Papers [Being Problems for consideration at the Pan-Anglican Congress, 1908] (London 1907-8). The bibliography is immense.

7 See, for example, Stock 3 pp 420-1. Directed in turn at French, German and Portuguese, such sentiments were naturally bound up closely with issues of religious rivalry and, through missionary desires for protection in their work, with the hopes for national unity touched on below.

8 See the examples cited in Cairns, H. A. C., Prelude to Imperialism. British Reactions to Central African Society 1840-1890 (London 1965) pp 2356 and passim; Holmberg, A., African Tribes and European Agencies. Colonialism and Humanitarianism in British South and East Africa 1870-189$ (Göteborg 1966) pt 2 , ‘The Conquest and Division of Zambezia’; also the debate on British policies in Nigeria during the 1890s, Ayandele, [E. A.], [The Missionary Impact on Modem Nigeria 1842-1914] (London 1966) caps 23 .

9 Walls, Andrew, ‘The nineteenth-century missionary as scholar’, Misjonskall og forskerglde. Festskrift til Professor Olav Giittorm Myklebust, ed Bloch-Hell, N. E. (Oslo 1975) p 220 .

10 For the general committee of the association in 1892 and 1896, see London, University College Library, Francis Galton MSS, file 77, and Robinson, C. H., Hausaland or Fifteen Hundred Miles through the Central Sudan (London 1896) app 2 . For the association see my ‘The Hausa Association: Sir George Goldie, the Bishop of Dover, and the Niger in the 1890s’, JICH (forthcoming); the only existing study is very brief, Kirk-Greene, A. H. M., ‘Cambridge and the Hausa Language’, West Africa 2056 (London 1956) p 675 .

11 See for example Leiters of Henry Hughes Dobinson Late Archdeacon of the Niger (London 1899) pp 73-4, 120-1; also [The] M[ission] F[ield] (London July 1894) p 271, for comment on discussion of the issue at the 1894 anglican missionary conference. For recent studies throwing light on such tensions between protestants and Roman catholics before 1914, Tasie, G. O. M., ‘Christianity in the Niger Delta 1864-1918’, unpubl PhD thesis (university of Aberdeen 1969), Cooke, C. M., ‘The Roman Catholic Mission in Calabar 1903-1960’, unpubl PhD thesis (university of London 1977).

12 Clarke, [P. B.], [‘The Methods and Ideology of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Eastern Nigeria 1885-1905’], JRA 6 (1974) pp 81108 .

13 See Gbadomosi, G. O., ‘The Growth of Islam among the Yoruba 1841-1908’, unpubl phD thesis (university of Ibadan 1968) esp cap 4 , ‘The Zenith of Islamic Expansion 1895-1908’; Curtin, P. D., The Image of Africa. British Ideas and Action, 1780-1850 (London 1965) pp 256, 4O5-6; Holway, J. D., ‘C.M.S. contact with Islam in East Africa before 1914’, JRA 4 (1971-2) pp 200-12. I am grateful to Mr Martin Lynn of the university of Ilorin for information on these and related points.

14 For a record of the principal landmarks, Stock 3 pp 117-18 and passim; west African plans were set out and early work described in the C[hurch] M[issionary] I[ntelligencer] (London March, April, December 1876). For a different and potentially conflicting strategy developed by British government officials in India, Gavin, R.J., ‘The Bartle Frere Mission to Zanzibar, 1873’, HJ 5 (1962) pp 122-48.

15 Stock 3 cap 94; Gairdner, [W. H. T.], [D. M. Thornton. A Study in Missionary Ideals and Methods] (London 1908); Padwick, [C. E.], [Temple Gairdner of Cairo] (2 ed London 1930). Much attention was devoted to the need for combating islam at both the Lambeth conferences and the pan-anglican conference congress of 1908.

16 Gray, W., ‘Missions to Mohammedans’, CMI (Jan 1888). The debate may be followed in such works as Methods of Mission Work Among Moslems. Being those Papers read at the first Missionary Conference on behalf of the Mohammedan World held at Cairo (London 1906); [Report of the World Missionary] Conference 1910, 9 vols (London 1910) I pp 20-1, 243 and passim; Islam and Missions. Being Papers read at the Second Missionary Conference on behalf of the Mohammedan World held at Lucknow, ed E. M. Wherry, S. M. Zwemer, C. G. Mylrea (London 1911); Gairdner, W. H. T., The Reproach of Islam, (London 1910).

17 Burton, R. F., A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome, 2 vols (London 1864) 2 p 192 ; Reade, W. Winwood, Savage Africa (London 1863) esp pp 578-87, and The African Sketch Book, 2 vols (London 1873) 1 pp 314-15. These themes continually recur in Burton’s and Reade’s work; for a brief description and introduction, Bolt, C., Victorian Attitudes to Race (London 1971) cap 4 .

18 Reginald Bosworth Smith, Mohammed and Mohammedanism (London 1874), subsequently revised and enlarged (2 ed 1876, 3 ed 1889). In fact a firm supporter of the anglican church and its missionary work, his writings culminated in The British Empire and its Missionary Responsibility. A Speech . . . at the Annual Meeting of the S.P.G. (London 1903) and Mohammedanism and Christianity. A Paper read at the Weymouth Church Congress, 1905 (Derby/London 1905). Changes in reactions to his work, and the growth of his acceptability to anglican missionaries over thirty years, are of interest not least as a pointer to the shift in attitudes explored below.

19 Taylor, Isaac, ‘Mohammedanism’, The Official Report of the Church Congress 1887 (London 1887) pp 325-31; Smith, R. B., ‘Mohammedanism in Africa’, The Nineteenth Century (London December 1887); for Thomson’s writings and attitudes, Rotberg, R. I., Joseph Thomson and the Exploration of Africa (London 1971) is indispensable. For reactions, CMI throughout 1887-89; the tone of the SPG was less strident, but arguments in its periodicals were equally dismissive, see MF (London January 1888) p 19, (February 1888) pp 71-2, (May 1888) pp 161-9, Pecember 1888) p 460, (June 1889) pp 238-9.

20 For example, when reviewed, CMI (May 1881), Sell’s, C. E. The Faith of Islam (London 1880) was seen as a very necessary corrective to Smith’s work, and was republished in new editions in 1896 and 1907; later, the lengthy article by Knox, G., ‘A Rejoinder to Canon Taylor on missions to Mohammedans’, CMI (Dec 1887), was specially reprinted in pamphlet form by the society; Stock 3 pp 345-8.

21 See Clarke JRA, and Kieran, [J.A.P.], [‘The Holy Ghost Fathers in East Africa 1863-1914’], unpubl PhD thesis (university of London 1966). The development of the Holy Ghost fathers’ attitudes to islam and then secular authority, while compressed into a shorter period, essentially mirrors that of the anglicans outlined here, compare Kieran pp 358-63.

22 As illustrations of this tendency, ‘On Missions to Mohammedans’, CMI (January 1876); ‘C.M.S. Work among Mohammedans’, ibid (January 1882); ‘Aden as a Mission Station’, ibid (December 1882).

23 Stock 3 pp 817-18, or CMI (January 1876) pp 6-7.

24 See ‘Imam Mahdy, and Dajjal, the Muhammadan Antichrist’ CMI (October 1883) pp 596-601, or passage from CMS Niger and Yoruba Notes (London January 1900) in Ayandele p 128. It would be interesting to know how much these ideas contributed to the conflicts of opinion treated by Shannon, R. T., Gladstone and the Bulgarian Agitation, 1876 (London 1963).

25 Mildmay Second Advent Conference Report (London 1876,1878,1886); Waddington, W. T. and Inskip, J. T., Charles Vickery Hawkins. Memorials of His Life (London 1896) pp 52,72, passim ; on Moule, Porter, [A. N.], [‘Cambridge, Keswick and late nineteenth-century attitudes to Africa’], JICH 5 (1976) pp 534 ; leading article by Rickard, H., ‘The Historical Preparation for the Second Advent’, MF (October 1894) pp 3614 .

26 This is explored in Porter; see also the fuller treatment of themes touched on here in my ‘Evangelical enthusiasm, missionary motivation, and West Africa in the late nineteenth century: the career of G.W. Brooke’, JICH 6 (1977) PP 23-46.

27 For Keswick teaching, Tlie Keswick Convention. Its Message, Its Method and Its Men, ed Harford, C. F. (London 1907); Porter, passim.

28 Tatlow, T., The Story of the Student Christian Movement of Great Britain and Ireland (London 1933) esp cap 1 pp 1721 .

29 For example Edwards, D. L., Leaders of the Church of England 1828-1944 (London 1971) caps 67 ; Chadwick, H., The Vindication of Christianity in Westcott’s Thought, (Cambridge 1961) p 10 and passim; Elliott-Binns, L. E., English Thought 1860-igoo: the theological aspect (London 1956) caps 45 ; for an interesting contemporary demonstra tion, Wordsworth, J., The Bearings of the Study of Church History on some Problems of Home Reunion, The Murtle Lecture 1Q02 (London 1902).

30 Benson, [A.C.], [The Life of Edward White Benson] (abr ed London 1901) p 441 .

31 For example S. A. Donaldson, ‘The Obligation of the Church to Foreign Missionary Work generally among Non-Christian Peoples’, Pan-Anglican Papers; also Robinson, Florence, Charles H. Robinson. A Record of Travel and Work (London 1928).

32 Compare F. J. A. Hort to Benson 26 December 1882, Hort, A. F., Life and Letters of Fenton John Anthony Hort, 2 vols (London 1896) 2 p 90 ; for the Blyth controversy and the advice, Stock 3 pp 523-7.

33 Benson p 432; also A. J. Mason, ‘Edward White Benson’, DNB; for an interested view of Benson’s contacts with the CMS, Stock 3 passim; compare Life and Letters of Mandeli Creighton By His Wife, 2 vols (London 1905) 2 pp 446-7.

34 See for example Gairdner (3 ed London 1909) pp 30-44, 52-3, seq.

35 For the early nineteenth century, see the very suggestive article by Piggin, S., ‘Sectarianism versus Ecumenism. The Impact on British Churches of the Missionary Movement to India c. 1800-1860’, JEH 27 (1976) pp 387402 .

36 Johnston; the SPG, SPCK, and UMCA refused invitations to this conference. Conference 1910. For a general survey of ecumenical developments which mentions missionary work in a much wider context, A History of the Ecumenical Movement 1517-1948, ed Rouse, R. and Neill, S. C. (London 1954).

37 Gairdner, W.H.T., ‘Edinburgh ilio’. An Account and Interpretation of the World Missionary Conference (London 1910) p 152 .

38 Johnston introduction pp xv-xviii.

39 Gairdner pp 114-15; Pad wick pp 65-9; Sinker, R., Memorials of the Hon. Ion Keith-Falconer (new ed London 1903) pp 1001 ; of particular importance and influence was Colonel Gordon in Central Africa 1874-1879 from Original Letters and Documents, ed Hill, G. B. (London 1881) which inspired, amongst others, G. W. Brooke of the Niger mission; Stock 3 passim.

40 Oliver, [R.], Sir Harry Johnston and the Scramble for Africa (London 1957) pp 128-9; Oliver, , [The] Missionary Factor [in East Africa] (London 1952) cap 3 ; Perham, M., Lugard. The Years of Adventure l858-1898 (London 1956) pt 3 ; Beaver, R. P., Ecumenical Beginnings in Protestant World Mission. A History of Comity (New York 1962) pp 29-30, 39, 78, 274-81.

41 Compare Oliver Missionary Factor p 246. In cap 5 ‘Mission, Church and State 1914-49’, Oliver, on a much grander scale, argues that for the missions as a whole, both protestant and Roman catholic, it was the 1914-18 war which led to significant changes in their thinking and the decline of missionary influence. In the anglican case, however, there would seem reason to believe that many missionary sympathisers were never as self-confident as Oliver seems to suggest, and that consciousness of their weakened position was evident well before 1914.

42 For the persistence of Gordon as the standard against which all were measured, Stock, E., ‘Missionaries in Egypt’, CMI (September 1900); high church anglican attitudes to episcopacy may have prompted some disillusionment in their ranks rather earlier than in those of the evangelicals, to judge from the anti-erastian tone of, for example, the leading article in MF (October 1894) pp 361-4. Cromer’s views on Gordon appear in his Modern Egypt, 2 vols (London 1908) esp 1 pp 427-31, 438-9, 559-74; this was reviewed in a leading article, ‘Modern Egypt. Western Education and Eastern Morals’, C[hurch] M[issionary] R[eview] (London July 1908) pp 385-93. For the archbishop’s fruitless interview with Lord Cromer, Bell, G. K. A., Randall Davidson Archbishop of Canterbury (3 ed Oxford 1952) pp 5678 . From another quarter, Lord Salisbury’s speech at the bi-centenary of the SPG on relations between missions and governments formally marked a turning point for the anglican community.

43 For a summary of such attitudes. Conference icio, Report of Commission VII: Missions and Governments, pp 51-60, 73-7, 113, 152, 157, 167.

44 As illustrations of what churchmen felt had been achieved, archbishop Cosmo Gordon Lang, ‘The Difference in the Attitude of the Church towards Missions in the last fifty years’, and ‘World Missionary Conference 1910. II Further Impressions’, by a CMS delegate, CMR (August 1910). In moves towards anglican unity and a wider view of non-anglican work, the pan-anglican congress of 1908 was felt to have played a large part.

45 This shift of attitudes may be sensed, for example, in debates on relations between missions and governments in both 1908 and 1910; see Official Report of the Pan-Anglican Congress, 7 vols (London 1908) 5 pp 85-102, and the Report of Commission VII in 1910. It is explicit in archbishop Davidson’s speech at the SPG anniversary meeting, MF (June 1910) pp 171-6, and is evident in the writings and comments of lay administrators themselves, for missionaries were frequently their own worst enemies. These perspectives need to be added to the otherwise full discussion of the anglican decision to participate at Edinburgh, in Hogg, W. R., Ecumenical Foundations. A History of the International Missionary Council and its Nineteenth-Century Background (New York 1952) cap 3 esp pp 110-15.

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