Mission and colonialism

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter considers how Christian thought about mission and colonialismwas shaped by (and sometimes shaped) the broader cultural and philosophical contours of the Scottish, English, and German Enlightenments; Romanticism; and evolutionary history. The dominant theological tempers— evangelical Protestantism, high Anglicanism, Pietism, Roman Catholicism, and the monastic traditions of RussianOrthodoxy— ensured the missionary movement’s essentially orthodox and conservative theological character throughout the period. During the late nineteenth century the emerging social- scientific approaches of anthropology, sociology, and comparative religion moved some leading missionary intellectuals towards evolutionary conceptions of civilizational hierarchies and primal religions. This paralleled a growing sophistication and rigour in missionary leaders’ thought about the nature of mission in colonial milieux, and a corresponding integration of Protestant and Catholic mission ‘theory’ (Theorie des Missionswesen) and ‘science’ (Missionswissenschaft) within academic theology, particularly in Scottish and German universities after mid- century. In the following I give attention first to the thought of Anglo- American Protestant missions, which, before 1870, dominated missions both within and beyond the reach of the nineteenth- century world’s largest colonizing power, the British Empire. In subsequent sections I consider Catholic thought, followed by a survey of perspectives during Europe’s ‘high imperial phase’ between 1870 and the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. The final part examines Russian Orthodox understandings of mission and colonialism in the context of a rapidly expanding Russian Empire prior to the cataclysmic Revolution of 1917.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford handbook of nineteenth-century christian thought
EditorsJoel D.S. Rasmussen, Judith Wolfe, Johannes Zachhuber
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780191787966
ISBN (Print)9780198718406
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NameOxford Handbooks Online
PublisherOxford University Press


Dive into the research topics of 'Mission and colonialism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this