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Look Inside Nature and the Godly Empire

Nature and the Godly Empire
Science and Evangelical Mission in the Pacific, 1795–1850


Part of Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories

  • Date Published: April 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521188883

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About the Authors
  • Nineteenth-century historians have described how science became secular and how scientific theories such as evolution justified colonialism. This book explores the relationship between nineteenth-century science and Christianity outside the Western world. At focus are the intrepid missionaries of the London Missionary Society who reverently surveyed the oceans and islands of the Pacific and instructed converts to observe nature in order to interpret God's designs. Sujit Sivasundaram argues that the knowledge that these missionaries practised functioned as a popular science that was inextricably linked with religious expansion. He shows how Britain's providential empire found support from popular views of nature as much as elite science and how science and religion came together in communities far from the metropolis even as disputes raged in Europe. This will be essential reading for historians of empire, science and religion, cultural historians, environmental historians and anthropologists.

    • Was the first book to analyse the relations between science and religion in the non-Western world in the nineteenth century
    • Draws on a rich and varied base of primary research
    • Essential reading for historians of empire, science, religion and the environment
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'Sivasundaram makes a fine case for considering missionary natural history as a credible form of science during the early nineteenth century … This book will force historians to question sharp modern distinctions between science and religion, the spiritual and the material, evangelicalism and enlightenment, colonies and metropolis, tradition and modernity, when it comes to understanding missionary and indigenous categories. Only by finding more adequate organizing concepts, and provincializing the binary categories generated by the historical experience of modern Europe, will we understand cultural transformations during a period in which Christianity, dwindling in its old European heartlands, boomed beyond the West.' British Journal of the History of Science

    Review of the hardback: 'For once a cover blurb gets it right: this is the first sustained account of the relationship between nineteenth-century science and Christianity outside the western world, and it mounts a powerful challenge to traditional interpretations of the relationship between science, religion and empire.' Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History

    Review of the hardback: '… an intriguing exploration … adds depth to the field through its fresh reading of missionary publications and visual archives of this episode of Britain's world-wide evangelical push.' The American Historical Review

    Review of the hardback: 'An impressive, methodologically successful, example of the unification of the history of science and imperial history … an important contribution to British history.' Sehepunkte

    'Colonial knowledge has assumed an increasingly important position in scholarship on British empire building in the Pacific. Sujit Sivasundaram's Nature and the Godly Empire is a key contribution to this developing line of enquiry. This richly textured monograph examines the connections between scientific knowledge and practice and the work of the London Missionary Society (LMS) in Polynesia. Sivasundaram convincingly argues that the understandings of the natural world that missionaries brought to the Pacific were central to the ideology of the mission.' The Historical Journal

    'Nature and [the] Godly Empire is a very interesting study of one of the key motors of Victorian culture and society, and its best sections sparkle with original analysis. It is precise and informative - the section about the LMS museum in London and the society's collecting culture is terrific - and it makes an important contribution to scholarship in the field.' Victorian Studies

    'Sivasundaram's book is a mine of new or off-the-beaten track information … It would appear to be essential reading for the historian of Christian expansion … for the missiologist reflecting on the cross-cultural communication of the Gospel; and to be sure, for any student of British Christianity in the early nineteenth century.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521188883
    • length: 258 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The light of the sun: stimulus for mission
    2. The growth of the mind: nature and mission education
    3. The seed of the soul: conversion illustrated by nature
    4. The body that will bloom: death and its theology of nature
    5. The plants of the land: building settlements of civilisation
    6. The idol of weeds: the exchange and display of nature.

  • Author

    Sujit Sivasundaram, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

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