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Conversion and Curriculum: Nonconformist Missionaries and the British and Foreign School Society in the British West Indies, Africa and India, 1800–50

  • Inge Dornan (a1)

Abstract

This article examines the ways in which Nonconformist missionary societies worked hand in hand with the British and Foreign School Society (BFSS) to provide them with pedagogic training in the British System and BFSS teaching manuals and resources, as part of their evangelical mission of conversion in the British West Indies, Africa and India in the nineteenth century. The BFSS appealed to Nonconformist missionaries because it was based on unsectarian pedagogy, pioneered by the educationalist Joseph Lancaster. The article explores the various obstacles these missionaries faced, including the religious persecution they experienced in teaching an unsectarian system and the educational difficulties they experienced in persuading parents and local governments of the value of elementary education. It also draws attention to the ways in which they fought race and sex prejudice in the teaching of Africans, slaves and young girls. The current literature on missionary activities in the early nineteenth century pays scant attention to their role as educators: the article reveals the degree of their educational ambition and zeal and the lengths they went to in order to implement a progressive system of unsectarian elementary instruction in key parts of the British empire during the nineteenth century.

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*Politics and History, Brunel University London, Uxbridge, UB8 3PH. inge.dornan@brunel.ac.uk.

Footnotes

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I am extremely grateful to the BFSS archivists Mandy Mordue and Phaedra Casey for their assistance in cataloguing and making available for historical research the BFSS foreign correspondence collection.

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1 Uxbridge, Brunel University London Archives (hereafter: BULA), British and Foreign School Society Papers, BFSS/1/5/1/8/4/3, Slave Book. On Knibb and the role of the missionaries in the British West Indies, see Hall, Catherine, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830–1867 (Cambridge, 2002).

2 See Rooke, Patricia T., ‘Missionaries as Pedagogues: A Reconsideration of the Significance of Education for Slaves and Apprentices in the British West Indies, 1800–1838’, HE 9 (1980), 6579, at 75; eadem, ‘The Pedagogy of Conversion: Missionary Education to Slaves in the British West Indies, 1800–33’, PH 18 (1978), 356–74; Jensz, Felicity, ‘Missionaries and Indigenous Education in the 19th-Century British Empire. Part II: Race, Class, and Gender’, History Compass 10 (2012), 306–17, at 310.

3 On the dominance of the white male missionary voice and the marginal role of native voices in missionary archives and narratives, see Jensz, Felicity, ‘Non-European Teachers in Mission Schools: Introduction’, Itinerario 40 (2016), 389403. On recapturing the voices and influence of native missionaries, see Richard Hölzl, ‘Educating Missions: Teachers and Catechists in Southern Tanganyika, 1890s and 1940s’, ibid. 405–28; Hugh Morrison, ‘Negotiated and Mediated Lives: Bolivian Teachers, New Zealand Missionaries and the Bolivian Indian Mission, 1908–1932’, ibid. 429–49.

4 The lines between ‘missionary’ and ‘teacher’ were frequently blurred. However, there were men and women who studied at the BFSS's teacher training college who taught in mission schools but were not evangelists, such as the prominent West Indian educational reformer and former BFSS pupil, John McSwiney.

5 Jean, and Comaroff, John, Of Revelation and Revolution, 1: Christianity, Colonialism and Consciousness in South Africa (Chicago, IL, and London, 1991); eidem, Of Revelation and Revolution, 2: The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier (Chicago, IL, and London, 1997). For a critique of missionaries, cultural imperialism and the ‘colonization of consciousness’, see Dunch, Ryan, ‘Beyond Cultural Imperialism: Cultural Theory, Christian Missions, and Global Modernity’, History and Theory 41 (2002), 301–25.

6 For broad overviews of the operation of the BFSS in these regions, see Bartle, George, ‘The Role of the British and Foreign School Society in the Education of the Emancipated Negro, 1814–75’, JEAH 15/1 (1983), 19; idem, ‘The Role of the British and Foreign School Society in Elementary Education in India and the East Indies, 1813–75’, HE 23 (1994), 17–33.

7 Bartle, George, A History of Borough Road College (Kettering, 1976).

8 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (London, 1977), 165–7.

9 BULA, BFSS/FC/Jamaica/123, Richard Taylor to James Millar, 18 August 1817.

10 Stern, Joseph, ‘Introduction’ to Manual of the System of Teaching: Joseph Lancaster and the British and Foreign School Society (Chippenham and Bristol, 1994), vi.

11 BULA, BFSS/2/6/3/1, ‘Borough Road Training College Male Students, 1810–1877’, 1–26.

12 Seventh Report of the Ladies’ Committee of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1821), 26.

13 A zenana was a distinct and separate area of a Muslim household reserved solely for women, often known as a harem.

14 See Ganter, Regina and Grimshaw, Patricia, ‘Introduction: Reading the Lives of White Mission Women’, Journal of Australian Studies 39 (2015), 16; Grimshaw, Patricia, ‘Rethinking Approaches to Women in Missions: The Case of Colonial Australia’, History Australia 8 (2016), 724; Reeves-Ellington, Barbara, Sklar, Kathryn Kish and Shemo, Connie A., eds, Competing Kingdoms: Women, Mission, Nation, and the American Protestant Empire, 1812–1960 (Durham, NC, 2010).

15 ‘Borough Road Male Students’, 1–26.

16 Fortieth Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1845), 27–8.

17 Forty-First Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1846), 29.

18 On the tensions and ambivalent relations between ‘native assistants’ and European missionaries, see Comaroff and Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution, 2: 78–88; in contrast, for the close bonds that could form between European and non-European missionaries, see Maxwell, David, ‘The Missionary Home as a Site for Mission: Perspectives from Belgian Congo’, in Doran, John, Methuen, Charlotte and Walsham, Alexandra, eds, Religion and the Household, SCH 50 (Woodbridge, 2014), 428–55.

19 Thirty-Fifth Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1840), 118.

20 Liu, Esther Ruth, ‘The Nineteenth Century Missionary-Translator: Reflecting on Translation Theory through the Work of François Coillard (1834–1904)’, in Ditchfield, Simon, Methuen, Charlotte and Spicer, Andrew, eds, Translating Christianity, SCH 53 (Cambridge, 2017), 376–88; Everill, Bronwen, ‘Bridgeheads of Empire? Liberated African Missionaries in West Africa’, JICH 40 (2012), 789805; Hüsgen, Jan, ‘The Recruitment, Training and Conflicts “Native teachers” in the Moravian Mission in the Danish West Indies in the Nineteenth Century’, Itinerario 40 (2016), 451–65.

21 BULA, BFSS/FC/Jamaica/44, ‘Statistical Report of the Jamaica Education Society 1845’.

22 Fiftieth Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1855), 83–4.

23 Ibid. 84–5.

24 Thirtieth Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1835), 96.

25 BULA, BFSS/FC/Jamaica/54, Jabez Tunley to the BFSS, 13 March 1847.

26 Green, William A., British Slave Emancipation: The Sugar Colonies and the Great Experiment, 1830–1865 (Oxford, 1976), 334–5.

27 Thirty-Sixth Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1841), 114.

28 Forty-Fifth Report, 86.

29 Fortieth Report, 28.

30 Forty-Sixth Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1851), 100.

31 Thirty-Third Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1838), 122.

32 Thirty-Sixth Report, 49.

33 BULA, BFSS/FC/Jamaica/14, James Phillippo to the BFSS, 11 February 1840.

34 Fifty-Seventh Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1862), 88.

35 Thirty-Eighth Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1843), 32.

36 Volz, Stephen, ‘Written on our Hearts: Tsana Christians and the “Word of God” in the Mid-Nineteenth Century’, JRA 38 (2008), 112–40, at 115–16.

37 Thirtieth Report, 114.

38 Fifty-Second Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1857), 18.

39 Sixty-Fourth Report of the British and Foreign School Society (London, 1869), 32.

40 Kitzan, Laurence, ‘The London Missionary Society and the Problem of Authority in India, 1798–1833’, ChH 40 (1971), 457–73, at 468.

41 Forty-Sixth Report, 99.

42 For further examples of local resistance to evangelism and pedagogy, see Volz, ‘Written on our Hearts’, 120; on the refusal of local peoples to passively accept the pedagogy practised by missionaries of the Church Missionary Society in Kenya see, Strayer, Robert W., ‘The Making of Mission Schools in Kenya: A Microcosmic Perspective’, Comparative Education Review 17 (1973), 313–30, at 321.

43 Bellenoit, Hayden J. A., ‘Missionary Education, Religion and Knowledge in India, c.1880–1915’, Modern Asian Studies 41 (2007), 369–94, at 393.

I am extremely grateful to the BFSS archivists Mandy Mordue and Phaedra Casey for their assistance in cataloguing and making available for historical research the BFSS foreign correspondence collection.

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Conversion and Curriculum: Nonconformist Missionaries and the British and Foreign School Society in the British West Indies, Africa and India, 1800–50

  • Inge Dornan (a1)

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