Gresham College Lectures

Protestant Missions and European Empires: Allies or Adversaries?

June 15, 2022 Gresham College
Gresham College Lectures
Protestant Missions and European Empires: Allies or Adversaries?
Show Notes Transcript

By the later eighteenth century, Protestant countries’ empires were spreading across the globe but Protestant churches were wriggling free of state control. What were the lessons from the early history of the missionary movement, and how did they underpin the wave of imperialism that followed? The missions’ later success depended on their increasing freedom from political control and their readiness to act independently; but also on the deep imperial assumptions they had imbibed.

A lecture by Professor Alec Ryrie

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- So welcome to this final lecture in my series on the early global spread of Protestantism, and in this lecture, we're finally going to turn to look head-on at the question that I've been dancing around all year, which is, is this really a story about religion? Or one about politics? About faith or power? Well, obviously it's both, but how does the relationship work? I hope, at this late stage, that some of the outline's already clear. The colonial and maritime commercial projects that a series of Protestant states and entrepreneurs were engaged in in the 16th, 17th, 18th centuries, these things did include religious motives, including the hope to spread their religion to the peoples they met, amongst other objectives. The grounds for those motives ranged from a burning concern to save perishing souls from hell through a wish to civilize and pacify peoples for whom they had decided they had some responsibility to the hope that religion could be used to cement alliances and stymie colonial rivals, and ministers, preachers, missionary enthusiasts were generally ready to work within the framework of imperial power with varying degrees of reservation or enthusiasm, but deep-rooted as it was, this alliance of convenience only went so far. Neither side wholly accepted the other's priorities or completely trusted the other. As mating spiders might tell you, just because two parties need one another doesn't mean that the relationship is going to be enduring and harmonious. In this last lecture, I want to explore the contours of this dysfunctional relationship, what it meant and where it went, and I'm going to do that in two ways. First of all, because all this generalization is already getting tedious, I want to pick out a few examples, three particular stories from across the globe contrasting cases that, I think, help to illustrate some of these issues quite nicely, and then, at the end, I want to turn to the question of how this early stage of Protestant missions came to move on. The real shift, not just in the tempo, but in the mood of these missionary enterprises, that becomes unmistakable by the 1790s because how that came about is, I think, really illuminating when we're trying to understand how mission and empire became so fruitfully and damagingly entangled, so first, my stories. Let's begin with the island, which was, as I argued in my second lecture, a key model, both for Protestant empires and Protestant missions. It was the original sin of Protestant globalization, the island whose shadow fell on every subsequent

British imperial project:

Ireland. Ireland had been under an often rather nebulous English lordship since the 12th century, but in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, that vague status quo was no longer tenable. Successive English regimes took it on themselves to make the claim into a reality. It's Queen Elizabeth I who won the decisive victory in the so-called Nine Years' War, which ended in 1603. One of the many prices of that brutally Pyrrhic victory was that Ireland remained almost exclusively Catholic. Since the 1530s, anti-English sentiment in Ireland had been expressed, in part, through loyalty to Rome, or maybe the other way 'round. It was widely accepted that even the solid citizens of Dublin only complied with England's religion as minimally as was necessary to hold office in the English administration. The Reformation in Ireland was an empty shell. In theory, a national Protestant church was created and the Catholic Church outlawed, as it had been in England, but this isn't accompanied by any serious effort to make it stick or to convert the people. In particular, there's virtually no interest shown in those whom the English called the wild Irish or the native Irish. That is, the majority of the Island's population, whose first language was Irish Gaelic. Protestants often suggested that converting the Irish would be a good idea, both for its own sake and also, to turn the Irish from, as they described them, incorrigibly treacherous popish rebels into settled, civil, and obedient Protestant subjects, but actually doing this would be difficult, distasteful, expensive, and very uncertain, and there was a simpler and bloodier way to teach the Irish obedience, so Ireland, in the early 17th century, settled into a strange religious stalemate. English rule was, for the time being, unchallenged. The entity which rather preposterously called itself the Church of Ireland had all the legal privileges of an established church, but its congregations consisted almost exclusively of the new wave of English and Scottish immigrants mixed with a scattering of Irish officialdom conforming for appearance's sake. The Catholic population were mostly left alone except when the established church's official structures extracted fees and fines from them so the Church of Ireland existed in an immigrant Protestant bubble without having to engage with the ghastly possibility of having the wild Irish in their churches, so in this case, it looks like empire has completely trumped mission, but occasionally, the Church of Ireland was dealt a joker who disrupted that predictable game, and so I want to introduce you to William Bedell who served as Bishop of Kilmore from 1629 to 1642, a stubborn, learned, politically inept, and by all accounts, saintly prelate. He's an Englishman, and until his friend James Ussher, the Archbishop of Armagh, nominated him to be provost of Trinity College Dublin in 1627, he had never set foot in Ireland. He's a learned country clergyman with an impeccable reputation and some friends in high places, and Ussher wanted an outsider who would shake Trinity up a little. Bedell had no desire at all to go to Ireland, but he felt the nomination as a call from God. It was his duty to obey. The fellows of Trinity College soon concluded it was a ghastly mistake. Bedell was a fine scholar, but he was also an idealist. He arrived with distinctly un-Irish enthusiasms for ministering to Gaelic speakers. He taught himself to read and write Gaelic, never much of a speaker of it. He apparently never preached in it himself. He revived the lapsed provision in Trinity's statutes, which said that the college should train Gaelic speakers. Within months, the college is up in arms about this kind of thing, but because he is unexpectedly and unacceptably doing exactly what he had been appointed to do, the only solution was to promote him out of trouble, and so in 1629, he was made bishop of the twin diocese of Kilmore and Ardagh in Ireland's interior, places where the veneer of the Church of Ireland on top of the Catholic population was thin indeed. If he liked the wild Irish so much, let him wallow in them, but Bedell was more than ready for the challenge. He promptly resigned one of his two bishoprics on the basis that moonlighting in that way was both immoral and illegal. This was an alarming act of selfless and impractical idealism and set out to serve as a missionary bishop. He won converts, including several Catholic priests, and he made it a priority to ordain Gaelic-speaking clergy. He sponsored the publication of Irish language books and led a small team who spent the bulk of the 1630s producing a complete translation of the Old Testament. Now, we don't know how much success this kind of missionary approach might have had if it had been the start of something rather than a one-off, but it does seem that he genuinely won some respect from his Irish-speaking flock. He made strenuous attempts to stop the Church of Ireland's financial exploitation of the population, and he also made the most of a bishop's traditional role as a provider of hospitality. One eyewitness recalled that at Christmas, he had the poor Irish to feast and sit about him. The best proof that he'd made an impression came during the Catholic rebellion against English and Protestant rule that erupted in the autumn of 1641 and was treated in England as an outbreak of terrible atrocities. There was some real horrors, but they were greatly exaggerated. The English and the Protestants were targeted by the rebels. Most of those who didn't flee were thrown out onto the road destitute. In some cases, they were killed, but not William Bedell and his family. He saw it as his duty to remain with his flock. The rebels who'd seized power in the area urged him to leave for his own safety. He refused. Eventually, he managed to negotiate safe passage for those who'd taken refuge in his house, but he and his immediate family had to surrender themselves as hostages. They were kept under really very gentle house arrest, being permitted to practice their religion. He was slightly disappointed that he wasn't shackled, but he's not a young man by this stage. His health was already wavering, and the disruption of that winter did him no favors. Somebody in the house fell ill with typhus, and it swept through all of them, and Bedell himself died in February 1642. Remarkably, his son-in-law, another Church of Ireland minister, was allowed by their captors to bury him using the full Protestant rite, and at the funeral, an honor guard of O'Reilly soldiers accompanied the coffin, fired a volley over it, and cried, "Requiescat in pace, ultimus Anglorum," which could either mean the best of the English or the last of the English. It probably meant both. If an authentic Gaelic Reformation could ever have happened in Ireland, this is surely the only way it could have happened, but the truth is that Bedell was almost completely isolated within the Anglo-Irish establishment. The clergy of his diocese formed a wall of opposition against him, and he spent a great deal of his time, energy, and money as bishop in a series of futile lawsuits against his own diocesan chancellor, who was effectively running the church courts as something close to a protection racket. Not that all of his opponents were just money-grubbers. His promotion of the Irish language was a threat to the very notion that civility, Christianity, and Englishness were intertwined. The lead translator working for him was the target of a malicious and apparently completely unfounded lawsuit which landed him in prison, and he died either while imprisoned or soon after his release. One of Bedell's few political victories came at a convocation in Dublin in 1634. The Bishop of Derry was trying to close down his translation project, but Bedell was supported on that occasion, at least, by his friend, Archbishop Ussher, but it was an isolated victory. Ussher's backing for Bedell was only ever lukewarm. Beneath all the politics and the finances, this was about prejudice. Bedell's son-in-law recalled once seeing the bishop quizzed by a skeptical Englishman about why he was so keen to reach out to the wild Irish, and as Bedell tried to answer, his questioner looked down steadfastly with derision upon his feet, and being asked why he did so, said that he was seeing whether my Lord of Kilmore wore brogues or no, thus jeering his Christian affection and compassion towards the poor Irish. Suspicion is that he'd gone native. Christian affection and compassion, plainly, are not enough, so in this case, missionary projects and imperial concerns are absolutely at loggerheads with each other. A missionary bishop tries to work within imperial power structures to take the values that those structures professed seriously, and he succeeds to the extent that he's allowed to remain in post with some patchy support, but is isolated in life, and after his death, is much praised and little imitated. The lesson, apparently, is that empire will tolerate a certain amount of decorative mission right up to the point when it starts to challenge imperial interests. Our second story is very different. We're now in the empire of the Dutch East India Company, which, in the 1620s, is trying to establish itself as a dominant player in trade to and from Japan where the Dutch are now the only outside power permitted to trade, but they need a base of operations further south, and after trying and failing to secure a foothold in mainland China, the governor of one of the maritime Chinese provinces suggested that they could be granted trade rights if they based themselves not on the mainland, but on the large island 180 kilometers off the coast. This was the island that the Portuguese had dubbed Ilha Formosa, beautiful island. The Dutch simply called it Formosa. Nowadays, of course, we call it Taiwan. China had had some contact with this island up to this point, but almost its entire population was indigenous Austronesian, divided into many hundreds of self-governing villages. The Dutch first made landfall on the island in 1623. They came back with a larger force in 1624 to establish a permanent settlement at a natural harbor in the island's southwestern corner. They adopted the indigenous name for this place, or a garbled version of it, and they called it Tayouan, a version of the name by which we now know the entire island, and they swiftly made contact with the nearest village whose name was Sinkan, and they managed to arrange to lease some land on which to build a fort. This had two purposes for the Dutch. First and foremost, it's simply a staging post at the northern end of the South China Sea en route to Japan, and secondly, what's going to become increasingly important, it allows them to access the goods that the island itself has to offer, and above all, that means deerskins, which the Dutch would then ship to the lucrative Japanese market, but it's not as simple as that. There are already Chinese traders operating in the same market. The Japanese aren't entirely at ease with the high fees that the Dutch are charging either, and both of those parties are perfectly capable of stirring up trouble on the island for the Dutch. It's in that context that in 1625, so just a couple of years after the first settlement, that the Dutch governor on the island, I mean, at this stage, his territory scarcely extends beyond the walls of the fort, asks the East India Company to send him two or three ministers or readers so the name of the Lord may be propagated and the barbarous inhabitants of this island may be added to the number of Christians. If a few capable persons work in this direction, I feel the harvest will be fruitful. Now, the request was no doubt pious and heartfelt. It's also clearly directed towards securing the allegiance of the indigenous people, and this is picked up by the East India Company's governor general in their eastern capital at Batavia, modern Jakarta, and not only by the governor general, but by a newly arrived young German clergyman in Dutch service, the 26-year-old Georg Candidius, who has a claim to be the first professional Protestant missionary. He'd spent two years in Leiden studying missions before his ordination, and he'd come to the East with that specific purpose in mind. He was now sent to Formosa along with a new governor for the Dutch settlement there, but with firm instructions that the company did not want the mission to be introduced with great ostentation or fuss so that the emperors of China and Japan might not be offended. The new governor, having arrived, almost immediately sets off for Japan itself to try to patch things up, and Candidius, left on his own, takes matters into his own hands. He doesn't just make contact with the village of Sinkan. Within weeks, he's actually left the Dutch fort and moved there. He's welcomed with some caution. The Sinkanders seem to have decided that the Dutch could be useful allies, and Candidius is bullishly optimistic about the prospect of missionary success there, certainly compared to what he'd previously seen in the Indonesian Archipelago. There's no Muslims to contend with here. There's no hostile kings, just a series of independent villages without established chieftaincies, whose mutual rivalries were expressed in periodic headhunting raids, but not in what we might call war. They followed their own indigenous religion in obedience to the priestesses, whom Candidius quickly identified as his main opponents. They scornfully challenged him to beat them at performing miracles. In a series of ambitious letters from the island, Candidius laid out his plans. He wanted a steady stream of missionaries to be sent who would commit to stay for a decade or more each. They would learn the language. He himself had already set to work on this, and they would either come with their wives so as to model good Christian family life to the Sinkanders, or, even better, they might commit to marry Sinkander women, so embedding themselves into kin networks, bringing whole families under good Protestant Christian norms and demonstrating that this religion wasn't just for Europeans, but for everyone, and Candidius also wanted this mission to be backed up with force. He wants the Dutch soldiers at the fort to arrest the indigenous priestesses to take them out of circulation, and he wants troops to be put at Sinkan's disposal in its endemic quarrels with neighboring villages. He may not be able to match the miracles of the priestesses, but he can mobilize more firepower than they could. The new governor had other plans. It turned out that the Sinkanders had been trying to cut a separate trading deal with Japan independently, and the Dutch are determined to stop this, so in January 1629, when Candidius is away from the village for a short time, the governor raids it and arrests 16 villagers. The village is furious with this and so is Candidius. His complaints about the governor are sufficiently persuasive that the company decides, once again, to replace him, third governor of the decade, but just before the new man arrives, the real disaster strikes. The soon-to-be-ousted governor, not that he knew he was soon to be ousted, sent another raid against another nearby village. This is the village of Mattau, a long-term enemy of Sinkan. He suspects them of harboring pirates. The Mattauers ambush them and kill an entire party of 60 Dutch soldiers, and exultant from this victory over Sinkan's foreign protectors, Mattau then proceeds to attack Sinkan itself and overrun it. This played out in apparently the way

that was normal in intervillage warfare:

not very much bloodshed, but a great deal of destruction. Most of the village is burnt to the ground, and so this is the catastrophic situation that greets the new Dutch governor, Hans Putmans, when he arrives, and he swiftly decides that his key ally is going to be Candidius, the missionary,

and Candidius's advice is very clear:

as soon as possible, the Dutch must exact revenge on Mattau, both for their own security and to win back the support of Sinkan, but they should only do it when they were confident they could win. The first step was a small raid by combined Dutch and Sinkander forces against another smaller village, giving the Sinkanders a share of the spoil. That was enough to get Candidius back into the village. He arrived in February 1630 to find that Sinkan is on the brink of starvation after the burning, and he spots the opportunity. The governor supplies rice and cloth in generous quantities without doing anything so crude as to make these gifts conditional on conversion, but being clear that to truly become friends of the Dutch would mean becoming Christians. At 1631, the village took a collective decision to do just that. 50 of them were baptized that year. A house was built for Candidius in the village. Meanwhile, the Dutch keep their side of the bargain. A further Dutch-supported raid against one of Sinkan's rivals in 1630 was successful. Now, this was a rival who had not injured the Dutch at all. As one historian puts it, it was nothing less than a headhunting expedition under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company, but that, it seemed, was what friends were for. Five heads were taken. The colony's official register recorded, "It would be very helpful in the work of the Lord "and will also bind the Sinkanders to us more closely." The mission on Formosa seemed to be finding its feet. Crucially, Candidius is now joined by a second energetic Dutch minister, Robert Junius, who'd been trained in the short-lived Mission College in the Netherlands. The two of them plus the governor, Putmans, would make a formidable team. The deal was, effectively, that the Dutch would make allies, would defend them, would convert them, and would trade with them. This way, the company would get a growing sphere of control and rising profits. Their indigenous allies would get victory over their enemies. The benefits of trade, education, and the saving truths of the Gospel, and the missionaries would see the kingdom of God growing day by day. They threw themselves into a series of holy wars. Junius led allied raiding parties on horseback. The Dutch and the Formosans don't quite trust each other, but the presence of the ministers as a bridge between the two communities made the alliance work. Junius seems to have had no qualms about this role. He told the governor that he was praying to the lord of battles who must teach our hands to fight so that Israel, God's own brethren, may emerge. The ultimate target of all these raids, of course, was the old, well, now the old enemy, the village of Mattau. It was six years before the massacre of 1629 could be revenged. The ministers repeatedly pressed the governor to act, fearing that Sinkan's loyalty and faith might prove wobbly as long as Mattau remained there, but when the Dutch are finally ready for retribution in 1635, the battle is decisive. They're now accustomed to fighting alongside their Sinkander allies. The way it worked would be Dutch musketeers would fire a volley to disperse the enemy, and then the Formosans would charge with a view to collecting heads. It also helped that, as was all too common in these kinds of imperial encounters, a lethal wave of smallpox had just swept through Mattau. The village was burned, the Sinkanders took 26 heads, including women and children, and the victory is the trigger for the whole of the southwestern lowlands to submit to Dutch overlordship. By the end of the following year, the Dutch sphere had expanded to include a further 57 villages. Now, these villages continued to administer their own affairs, but the Dutch imposed what one historian calls a Pax Hollandica. The low-level intervillage violence, which had been an endemic feature of preconquest life, is stamped out. They provided ministers, churches, schools. Wooden church buildings were thrown together in a series of villages using musket fire in place of bells to summon people to worship, a pragmatic solution, but also one which reminded everywhere where Dutch power really grew from. Starting in Sinkan, formal Reformed churches were also set up, meaning that alongside the Dutch ministers, there were elected Sinkander elders who were responsible for imposing discipline on the congregation. Indigenous leadership is very important to them. Candidius and Junius are already talking about a seminary on the island for training indigenous men for ordained ministry, but in the meantime, the core of their project is schooling. The ambition is for a school in every village providing free rice for all children who attended, boys and girls alike, to train them in literacy in their own language as well as in Dutch, and, of course, to instruct them in Christianity, which all sounds expensive, and remember that one of the main aims of the colony was to provide deerskins for export to Japan. At the beginning of the Dutch settlement, the island is exporting something like 20,000 deerskins annually, but the number creeps up as the Dutch zone becomes established, and the decisive change comes with the victories and pacification in the mid-1630s. The allied villages could and did provide deerskins for the Dutch, but not on the scale that was wanted. What accelerates the trade is that the Dutch then decide to license mainland Chinese settlers to come to the island to hunt. By 1638, over 150,000 deerskins are being taken each year under this lucrative system, and in charge of the system of licensing is none other than the missionary and part-time headhunter, Robert Junius. In that year, the licenses produced a handsome revenue of just under 2,000 Portuguese reals for the company, but the company, despite having invested so heavily in Formosa, only takes half of that amount as profit. The rest is plowed back. 624 reals, so almost exactly a third of the takings, are spent on food, clothes, equipment, and teachers for schools. Smaller sums are spent on poor relief and on church-building, so if the missionaries had made a devil's pact with the East India Company, they had at least driven a hard bargain. By the time Junius left the island in 1643, he and Candidius had between them baptized over 6,000 people, admitted hundreds to communion, and erected two fully self-governing churches, but we shouldn't be too starry-eyed about this Pax Hollandica. For one thing, as you may have guessed, killing 150,000 deer per year on a not terribly large island isn't even faintly sustainable. The deer population crashed catastrophically, the Dutch are forced to impose strict limits on hunting, and there goes the revenue stream. Suddenly, it becomes impossible to bribe children with rice to attend school. The Dutch start trying to coerce them instead, or levying increased taxes on the villages, and colonial violence doesn't come to an end by any means. The case of the small offshore island, which the Dutch called Lamey became notorious. Its warlike inhabitants had massacred the first Dutch parties who attempted a landing. In 1636, a Dutch force takes the island after a brutal campaign in which the bulk of the population are besieged in and then smoked out of a cave where as many as 300 died from starvation or asphyxiation. By the time the last islanders were captured in 1645, 405 islanders had been reported killed and a further 697 enslaved. Junius was appalled by this. He protested vainly about the treatment of the captives, pleaded for them to be returned home, and he did eventually, many years later, persuade the East India Company's governors in Amsterdam to accept that the policy had been too severe, but it was much too late by then, and anyway, did he really think that Dutch imperial power was always going to choose scrupulous and merciful self-restraint? More consequentially, the Dutch sphere of control in Formosa was itself still quite small. The influx of Chinese settlers into that newly pacified zone stirred up trouble, especially once the deer hunting dried up. It's not just that some Chinese settlers were challenging Dutch control and preying on Dutch ships. Even within the Dutch zone, Chinese agricultural encroachment on indigenous lands was causing friction, and the fact that taxing Chinese settlers was now the colonies' main source of revenue did not help, and fatally, their presence dragged the island properly into China's economic orbit for the first time. Civil war breaks out in China in the 1640s, and the Ming Dynasty's loyalist, Zheng Chenggong, fighting a rear-guard action from his base in Xiamen, right on the other side of the Taiwan Straits, begins financing his struggle by maritime trade. When the Dutch push back, he imposes an embargo on Formosa. During the 1650s, the colony's trade, and therefore, its revenue and ability to finance its missionary project collapse. By the time Zheng actually mounts an invasion of Formosa in 1661, he finds a Chinese settler population eager to receive him and an indigenous population perfectly ready to do so. One admittedly disgruntled Dutch schoolteacher, who fled back to the Dutch fortress where they held out for several months before their final surrender, had this to say about the people

amongst whom he'd ministered:

"These fellows," the indigenous Formosans, "now speak with much disdain of the true Christian faith, "which we endeavored to implant in their hearts "and are delighted "that they're now freed from attending the schools. "Everywhere, they've destroyed the books and utensils "and have introduced the abominable usages "and customs of heathenism. "On hearing the report that Chenggong had arrived, "they murdered one of our Dutch people, "and after having struck off the head, "they danced around it with great joy and merriment, "just as they formerly did with their vanquished enemies." It seems that conducting mission by means of headhunting was not such a good idea after all. My third example builds on a story I was telling in the last lecture, the story of the joint Danish-German-English mission that was based at Tranquebar in Southeast India from 1706 onwards, and which was at unusually arm's length from imperial power structures. By the later 18th century, as both the mission and the ambitions of European empires in India grew, that distance was becoming impossible to maintain. The person who found a new way forward, or tried to, was the German missionary Christian Friedrich Schwarz, who arrived at Tranquebar in 1750. Quickly became clear that he was an unusually talented person, a formidably gifted linguist who settled on a new missionary method of choosing and training local men to serve as sub-missioners, helpers, he called them, who would be sent out in pairs into the countryside, organizing schools and congregations as they went. I say men. On at least one occasion, he placed in Indian woman as leader of a congregation, but this is a period of surging imperial ambitions in India, in particular, of conflict between the British and the French. Schwarz is not a British subject. He's from a German principality, but the British are the Protestant power, and the British SPCK are paying his salary. In the early 1760s, he begins cautiously to work with the British East India Company's troops. It starts when he establishes an orphan school for the survivors of a catastrophic explosion at an East India Company ammunition dump in 1761. By the time peace with France was established in 1763, Schwarz has become a kind of military chaplain to the East India Company, burying the dead, caring for the wounded. He refuses to accept pay from them. He insists that the company, instead of paying him, build prayer halls and schools, and this arrangement is progressively formalized to the point where he's actually reordained as an Anglican priest, a step which a good many Lutherans would've regarded as an insult or a humiliation. Military chaplaincy means collaborating with the British, but it also means itinerancy, and he uses this to spread his network of so-called helpers ever wider, and it also puts him at the heart of the developing struggle for Southern India. During the war between the company and the kingdom of Thanjavur in 1771 to '3, which ended in a grueling siege, Schwarz makes it his business to organize relief efforts and is successful in securing loans to buy grain in a way that's widely credited with having averted large-scale famine, and this makes his reputation in the region, so much so that when the king of Thanjavur is restored in 1776, under company overlordship, he persuades Schwarz to resign his military commission and move to Thanjavur as a royal advisor, and once again, Schwarz insists in taking his fee in the form of an endowment for lands for a new church in Thanjavur, which is still there, and the rebuilding of Christian schools and sites of worship which had suffered war damage. That's the memorial to Schwarz himself in the church. When the king of Thanjavur dies a decade later, Schwarz serves as regent for his underage successor. Now, that's partly because the East India Company trusts him, but he's increasingly plainly opposed to the company's rampant expansionism. During the late 1770s, he was involved in doomed attempts to negotiate a peace between the company and the powerful southeastern kingdom of Mysore. When war broke out anyway, he used his network of helpers to provide famine relief, and the sultan of Mysore ordered that they be protected amidst the war, so if William Bedell was uncompromising, and therefore ineffective, if George Candidius and Robert Junius were ready to compromise with imperial power, and also, in the end, therefore, not nearly as effective as they seemed, maybe Schwarz offers a middle path. He worked with the burgeoning structures of imperial power. Military chaplaincy is not a job for the squeamish, but because he had a clear sense of where to draw the line and of where his ultimate loyalties lay, he was able to avoid being dragged in too deep. It certainly helped that he was German and not British, and that his primary identity and his core salary related to his work as a missionary, so everything else was always a means to that end, but certainly, by the time he was working, there was no point in pretending that a missionary could avoid politics. The conquest of India was happening. He plainly disapproved of it, but his response was to offer the remaining princely states the chance to build themselves into independent Christian or Christian-friendly kingdoms bolstered by the best modern education and able to live in prosperous peace alongside the British, which wasn't exactly the deal that the East India Company was interested in offering. When the company provided subsidies for Schwarz's schools in other territories, which they did, this was because his schools were producing the highly trained administrators that the company was desperately short of. In the end, empire was a tank that was going to grind forward regardless of what these missionaries did. Maybe the choice between Bedell's futile contrarianist and Candidius and Junius's compromised collaboration, and Schwarz's principled tightrope walking is a false one. None of it made much difference in the end. Ireland, Taiwan, and India nowadays all have vibrant Protestant minorities of different kinds, but none of them exactly look like missionary success stories, and if, in some cases, the missionaries may have helped take the edge off the experience of conquest and occupation, in other ways, all three of my examples were implicated in it, but if that's a little bleak, it's also worth noting that by the end of Schwarz's life, he died in 1798, something truly was beginning to change. In the first of these lectures, I said that the traditional starting point of the history of Protestant missions, what I've been using as my endpoint, was William Carey's "Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians "to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens," published in 1792, a few months before he founded the body which became known as the Baptist Missionary Society, founded in Northamptonshire. The following year, Carey set sail for, of course, India, where he lived and worked for the remaining 40 years of his life, and his example was critical in the creation of the London Missionary Society, an interdenominational outfit which was led by Congregationalists and Presbyterians and made its first rather ill-fated venture to Tahiti, and these are the first of what become a surge of new Protestant missionary societies from then on. The British are in the lead, but aren't alone. The Swiss-based Basel Missionary Society of 1815 is amongst the most famous early leaders, so we need to finish by asking why, given the slow, very halting, and generally pretty unsuccessful Protestant missionary story that we've tracked over the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, why is a corner quite suddenly turned from the 1790s onwards? If working with imperial powers was so difficult, how could the heyday of European imperial power prove to be so much more conducive to these missionary projects? Now, that's a big, complicated question, and historians are supposed to like giving big, complicated questions big, complicated answers, and I'm going to do my best, but the evening is drawing to a close, and I'm afraid I actually think that underlying it all is one quite simple reason, one event without which this could not have happened. Still, because I don't want to look too simplistic, let's creep up on that event from behind and see if we can make it look more sophisticated than that, so let's notice that the vanguard of this new missionary search is British Baptists, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians, so all of the nonconformist, dissenting churches at one remove from the British establishment, indeed, at this date, still suffering legal discrimination of various kinds in Britain, and if the Basel Missionary Society was representing established churches, well, the Swiss Confederation and the Kingdom of Wurttemberg are hardly imperial powers, so like Schwarz and the Tranquebar missionaries, we're dealing with people who aren't directly employed by or beholden to imperial power structures. That's a contrast to, for example, the English Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the main missionary society at work in the 18th century, which, in the end, was always more interested in building up Anglicanism than in preaching to the so-called heathen. It's a contrast, as well, to the Dutch Reform ministers who were employed and kept on a very tight leash by the Dutch East and West India Companies. In fact, I'd suggest that a significant piece of this puzzle is the takeover of a large part of the Dutch Empire by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. In particular, the island of Ceylon, Sri Lanka, and the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope where British rule saw an almost immediate cross-denominational influx of missionaries. South Africa was going to become the continent's missionary springboard, and indeed, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars didn't just deliver the Dutch Empire into British hands, but also spurred a wider sense amongst the British, deeply shocked by the so-called de-Christianization campaign in revolutionary France, that their struggle with the Jacobins and with Napoleon was a war for Christian civilization, so perhaps what reset the dial is the French Revolution of 1789, an epoch-making event, but I think we need to go back a little bit further. The change in atmosphere in Britain is already apparent by the mid-to-late 1780s. Indeed, a crucial element of it is a collective realization which had gripped much of the pious element of British society from about 1783 onwards. The London Missionary Society, William Carey himself, were deeply connected to, really rose out of a slightly earlier movement, the first truly mass participation political campaign in British history, one which related to the non-Christian population which British subjects encountered much more frequently than any other, that is, enslaved Africans. The missionary awakening of the 1790s is a kind of outgrowth of the campaign to abolish the slave trade, which sprang up with astonishing speed in Britain in the 1780s, so much so that it moved from being an extreme view held by a few eccentrics to, within a decade, having a petition against it signed by over 10% of Britain's entire population, children and the illiterate included, and the House of Commons passing an abolition bill by 230 to 85 in 1792. The newly crystallized conviction that the slave trade was an intolerable obstacle to converting Africans, both in the Americas and in Africa itself, was a vital part in this mass movement, so maybe I'm talking about abolition, but what was it that suddenly, from 1783 or so onwards, made it possible for Britain to consider openly confronting the colonial slave-holding interests that it had never dared to defy before? What national catastrophe made Britain ready to question whether its deepening role in the slave trade was a collective sin for which the nation was being judged? And indeed, what event simultaneously and abruptly brought to a halt the main efforts of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the Anglican missionary outfit whose attempts to build up the Church of England in North America had absorbed so much of England's missionary energies? And incidentally, what event pushed France to the edge of bankruptcy, so helping trigger the French Revolution? In other words, I'm going to suggest that the simple reason why the missionary awakening took place was the American Revolution. It's not only that American independence made British slave trade abolitionism possible because Britain's pro-slavery constituency was now reduced to some Caribbean islands which the mother country was not particularly afraid to provoke, nor indeed, that American independence made abolitionism feel necessary because freed slaves had fought loyally for the loyalist cause, and the almost inconceivable defeat in the American war felt like a thunderbolt of judgment. The American Revolution completely reshaped Britain's overseas empire. It's often described as the end of the first British Empire, the Atlantic Empire, and the beginning of a pivot to the second, the Indian Ocean Empire, with spreading control of India, the seizure of the Cape of Good Hope, and Ceylon to follow, the first beginnings of Australian colonization to boot. When the SPG was established in 1701, its priority was America, and it poured its efforts into building up the Church of England over against other Christian denominations there with some intermittent attempts to minister to enslaved people and small numbers of Native Americans. Meanwhile, India was a sideshow left to the SPG's poorer and more informal cousin, the SPCK, which funded the Tranquebar mission. After the American Revolution, it suddenly became clear that India, Africa, and Asia were no longer the sideshow, but the main attraction. If William Carey had had his missionary awakening a quarter-century earlier, he would certainly have gone to the North American frontier, not to Calcutta, so let me be clear in suggesting that the fountainhead of the modern missionary movement was the American Revolution, I'm in no sense ascribing it to that revolution's principles, republican self-government, the seeds of democracy, a house divided between slavery and freedom on a continent whose indigenous peoples were being driven to the margins. The United States's missionary energies would be focused on itself for generations to come, but the loss of the American colonies transformed how Britain, and in its wake, the rest of Protestant Europe, saw the wider world, saw its sins, its obligations, and its opportunities, and I hope that after the stories I've told you today about how tangled and codependent and even mutually destructive the relationship between mission and empire could be, it will seem credible that the foundation of British and then global Protestant missionary success might lie in the British Empire's most humiliating defeat. Thank you. (audience clapping) - I'm going to start off with an online question here. To what extent was Oliver Cromwell's resettlement of Ireland with Protestants an attempt to convert the Irish? - An attempt to convert the Irish, it is not that at all. If you listen to Cromwell's rhetoric, it's an attempt to convert Ireland, not by persuading the people to change their religion, but simply by replacing. There's this rhetoric almost of extermination of the idea of importing a new population and driving the others to hell or Connaught. I think most historians of Cromwellian-era Ireland would agree that that rhetoric is not fully followed through, that the talk of mass replacement simply doesn't happen, whether because the Cromwellian state doesn't have the resources to do it, and it's always harder for British regimes to find willing Protestants to go and settle in Ireland than it is for them to talk about doing it, or because Cromwell's... One of Cromwell's methods of governing Ireland is the use of exemplary terror, which he uses both in his military campaigns and in his rhetoric of governance. One of the reasons for doing that is so that he may not need to follow through on all of his threats. I'm not trying to defend his approach here, but his bite was pretty bad. It's not as bad as his bark. - Thank you very much for another characteristically interesting and stimulating lecture. I have really a minor question. You might have answered it by implication, and I've missed the implication. You refer to Chinese deerstalkers being licensed to do their stalking. Why was it that Chinese, not, say, European, who were already Christians, and there didn't need to be any effort to conversion, why was it that Chinese rather than, say, Europeans were given the license? - Within Taiwan, within Formosa. - Yes, yes. - Simply because we're... I'm sorry, this is going to sound like a terribly simplistic answer. Europe is quite a long way away, whereas China is 180 kilometers across the sea. It's relatively easy to bring in quite large numbers of people who are skilled and well-armed hunters with a different level of technology than that that the indigenous people have, that the Dutch would probably be perfectly capable of it, although their folks are soldiers rather than having having specific training to operate in this environment. The indigenous people are, of course, extremely used to it, but their methods of hunting were less effective. They don't have firearms. Also, their preferred method of hunting was the use of deadfalls, a pit with spikes and a trap in it, which is very effective for catching deer, but it tends to damage the hide, and if you're most interested in being able to ship an almost blemishless hide to Japan, then one which has got a couple of bullet holes in it is going to be much more lucrative than one which has been mauled by a trap. - Generally, in relation to the entire series, it seems that various missionaries believed they were bringing the truth with little or no cautious humility of the validity of the cultural relativity of their Christian beliefs. (chuckles) It's almost a statement. - Yes. Yes, indeed. I mean, that's plainly the case. That is the case in most of the cross-cultural encounters that we see in this era. The modern perspective, which seems so obvious to us, that one ought to question one's own assumptions in the face of people with different ones, is not intuitively obvious to most of the cultures of this period. If we're considering our encounter with them, that's something that we need to recognize about them and our willingness to approach with that sort of humility and pluralism is something distinctive about our own age and times. They tended to think they were right. They knew what they thought, and therefore, they were right, and others were wrong. That doesn't mean that they assume that they are better than the people with whom they're dealing. It's very common, in reading the ethnographic accounts that missionaries and other Europeans write of various peoples they encounter in different parts of the world, they're often quick to stress the virtues and the skills and the abilities of the people they're dealing with as well as to condemn what they see as their characteristic vices and failings, and those lists can be very different from different people and in different circumstances, and indeed, those who've had experience in a number of different places will often draw very sharp comparisons between different groups of people. That does mean that they tend to treat a particular nationality or region as a group, that this can be said generically of the Formosans or of Africans or whoever it might be, sometimes smaller groups, sometimes bigger ones. They're also often emphasizing the superior virtues of the people they're dealing with, and may, it becomes almost a kind of preacher's trope that they will, in preaching to European Christian populations, be reproaching them by, look how much more virtuous the lives of these pagans are compared to you, who should know better. The one thing that they never question is that their knowledge, the doctrine that they have, the Christianity that they've received, that that is a fundamental truth which needs to be taken to people who may be more physically capable, more virtuous in some cases, even more civilized than they themselves are, the one thing which they'll never admit to is ignorance about God. - Thank you very much. Well, I think, as everybody has gathered, this is Professor Ryrie's final lecture as professor of divinity at Gresham College, and in September, his successor, Professor Ronald Hutton, will be taking over and starting his series of lectures on British paganism, but I'd just like to say a few words of thanks for your actually quite considerable tenure here at Gresham College because you began as a visiting professor, in fact, in 2015 before becoming the full professor of divinity in 2018. Many people here may know that Professor Ryrie is a professor of the history of Christianity at Durham University. He's also the coeditor of the "Ecclesiastical History Journal," and he is the president of the Church of England Record Society, and in fact, since 1997, he's been a reader in the Church of England in the parish of Shotley St. John in the Diocese of Newcastle. He's written many books, and we rather hope that this series here will turn into a book. We anticipate that. - Not immediately, but yes. - But that is very exciting. Your books include your 2017 book


The Radicals Who Made the Modern World," so you've given us four series of lectures, which have reached some 1.8 million views, which is an incredible number. Your first series was on the origins of atheism, which took us back to the age when the newly minted word atheism had become a cultural obsession. The first lecture in this series, "How to Be an Atheist in Medieval Europe," has gained 465,000 views on our YouTube channel. - It's all been downhill since then. - Oh, no it hasn't. It carried on going, so we then had your series on "Atrocity and Religion in European Memory," when we heard about the Spanish Inquisition, Bloody Mary, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, and we delved into some other atrocities and their victims like the Japanese Catholics the 17th century, so in 2021, you turned to England's Reformations and their legacies, where you told us stories, well, six overlapping stories, in fact, of the different types of Reformation in Tudor England, and how, when you put these together, they painted a picture of what it meant to live through this revolutionary age, and that was followed by your current series, which you've concluded this evening, "The Hidden History of How Protestantism Went Global," when you have explored the story of Protestantism's global spread from the 16th up until the 19th century. Well, through your time as a professor at the college, you have shown enthusiasm, energy, fluency, humor, and you have thrown really unexpected and new light on a whole range of subjects related to the history of Christianity in a way that, I think, many of us could never have expected, so I'd like to thank you very much on behalf of the college and on behalf of the, it seems, millions of fans out there that you have who've enjoyed your lectures over the last four years, thank you very much indeed. (audience clapping drowns out Professor Ryrie)