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This chapter reconstructs the dynamics of the initial encounter between the British and the question of mental health illness in Palestine into the 1920s. Far from recapitulating a familiar narrative about the colonial introduction of psychiatry as a moment of rupture, it instead offers a multi-layered account of the opening of the first government mental health hospital at Bethlehem, in order to highlight how the British were in fact latecomers to an ongoing history of psychiatry in Palestine. Well before the British occupation of 1917, Palestinians had recourse to a range of medical and non-medical options for the management of the mentally ill, and those existing understandings, experiences, and institutions crucially shaped how the British responded to mental health illness across these formative years. As well as tracing the establishment of a key institution, this chapter also introduces a central figure in the history of psychiatry in mandate Palestine: Dr Mikhail Shedid Malouf.
The seventh chapter studies how Blake’s poem Milton (c.1804) reconceives key aspects of epic tradition as it refigures missionary work as a metaphor for promoting freedom from the limitations of imperial discourse. Showing how literal missionary work can assist empire by holding people in states of subjection, Blake more abstractly repudiates the limitations that Equiano addresses concretely. I argue that Blake locates in the tensions between missionary work and empire the resources to oppose imperialism. While some of Blake’s rhetoric resembles that of actual missionaries and imperialists of his day, I suggest that Blake works from within such orthodox discourses to undermine them. The unresolved contradictions in Blake’s Milton – both in his use of the epic genre and in his appeals to religious and imperial rhetoric – heighten the challenge that he poses to the stable circumscriptions of imperial discourse.
Chapter 2 augments this framework by surveying the history of the evangelical revival, emphasizing the anxious relationship between missionaries and empire. I examine the growth of missionary societies, their conflicts with empire, and their descent into the underworld of collusion with imperialists. I highlight key moments in this history, including the Vellore Mutiny, which raised concerns about evangelism among more secular exponents of empire, and the subversive work of Johannes Van der Kemp among the Khoi in South Africa. The chapter concludes with a close examination of two brief epics composed by missionary propagandists in the 1790s, Thomas Williams and Thomas Beck. These poems reveal the early conceptual friction between evangelism and imperialism, but they also indicate the assumptions that would enable the two projects to be aligned in the nineteenth century.
My fifth chapter extends my investigation of how epic could facilitate the imagining of a coordination of evangelism and imperialism and also provide, through tensions inherent in the genre, space to critique of the developing ideology of Christian imperialism. I examine Robert Southey’s Madoc as a cautious depiction of Christian conversion: even as Southey regards it as uplifting and beneficial, he expresses wariness about evangelism’s potential to sanction injustice. Conveying the remnants of Southey’s misgivings about the tyrannical potential of established religion, along with his suspicion about the overly enthusiastic zeal of many missionaries, Madoc traces similarities between Christians and non-Christians as a technique to affirm colonial authority, even as it strives to contain the tensions summoned by this strategy. Through his revisions of the epic genre, Southey advocates a need continuously to reform Christianity, empire, and epic, and so continuously to purge them of a tyrannous potential that he believed accompanied them.
After having discussed the tactics of epic writing in the 1790s and early 1800s, I return to 1789 in my sixth chapter in order to examine the subversive implications of Olaudah Equiano’s anticipation of the Romantic epic revival. Although his Interesting Narrative (1789) is not an epic, it borrows several aspects of the epic form in order to associate Equiano at once with both colonizers and the colonized. Mixing epic with autobiography, conversion narrative, and travel writing, the formal liminality of Equiano’s account amplifies his presentation of himself as a hybrid figure in terms of race and religion, allowing him to promote to his readers not merely Christianity, but a broader conception of identity that challenges the conceptual basis of slavery and imperialism. Drawing on the literary resources of his colonizers’ culture, Equiano ultimately uses his position as ‘other’ to promote in his Narrative a cosmopolitan Christian identity that transcends the categories of nation and race while revealing the flaws in the discourse of both evangelism and empire.
Chapter 1 establishes a framework for understanding how the Romantic epic served as a vital literary form for addressing the tensions raised by the evangelical revival and the development of ideologies of Christian imperialism. Identifying epic poetry as an inherently conflicted genre that at once embodies reverence towards tradition and rebellion against it, the chapter investigates unique tensions in the Romantic epic that suspend it between an exterior focus influenced by the classics and an interior orientation inspired by Milton. Examining the conflicts within and between evangelism and the secular civilizing mission, the chapter argues that tensions within the epic genre make it useful for addressing similar anxieties exposed by the development of Christian imperialism.
The book concludes with a chapter that links my argument to the poetic theory and epic practice of the canonical Romantics. Situating Wordsworth’s Prelude and Byron’s Don Juan in the epic revival reveals how they participate in the trends of the period by addressing the tensions of the evangelical turn of empire. The Prelude elaborates the tradition of epic poetry that broadly affirms assumptions of British imperialism while resisting and seeking to temper its worst aspects. Don Jua, on the other hand, may be read as an extension of more subversive uses of the epic genre, attempting oppose imperialism – or at least many of its forms – by decrying the very idea of transforming others. Yet in Byron’s rejection of conversion, and in his embrace of a subjectivity made thinkable by the increasing secularization of the world, he offers an alternate path for reclaiming a sense of wholeness, one grounded in doubt and critical thought.
This chapter offers a different take on the standard teleological story of Christianization in the Lushai Hills by focusing on what the missionaries themselves deemed an utter failure: their first decade of mission work. It views the earliest foreign missionaries to the Lushai Hills as uplanders did: first, as ‘sap vakvai’ - strange and insignificant wanderers; and, later, as ‘zosap’ - usable and incorporable newcomers, asking not what foreign missionaries wanted from highland people, but what highland people wanted from missionaries. The weakness and vulnerabilities of foreign missionaries opened up space for a first generation of young people with sensibilities spanning the Lushai Hills District and the globe. Upland populations became interested in Christianity - a new yet combinable spiritual power - as well as the knowledge dispensed on the mission compound because they were completely and inherently involved in its interpretation and dissemination. Everyday technologies, the studies and movements of students, regional meetings of nascent Christian groups, and ‘celebrations’ of empire began synchronizing time and both connecting and circumscribing space, all with profoundly far-reaching and unpredictable effects. Maps, schools, and the harmonization of space and time would help spark ideas about a wider, more integrated ‘Mizo’ identity. Children, adolescents, and youth were not only critical partners but also often operated in networks completely unmediated by the white missionaries, in channels of circulations that generated important redefinitions of space, time, and ethnicity in the uplands.
Christian missionaries in Morocco – who were present from the 1890s to the 1970s – were complete failures at making converts. But their influence was still significant. Much admired to this day, the American missionaries in particular submitted insightful comments on the country, brought medical aid and technology to many areas of the country, and professed a form of Christianity that sought to set an example rather than denigrate local culture. In what is admittedly a small element in the encounter with the West, it remains striking that so many Moroccans continue to speak well of their contacts with the missionaries and thereby give voice to their own culture of inclusiveness.
The narrative begins with the establishment of the American Presbyterian Mission in northwestern Iran. American missionaries discovered Iran at a moment of cultural and social crisis after the Russo-Persian Wars. Iran grappled with a mixed religious environment, which, while dominated by Shia communities, had accommodated peoples of different faiths, including Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians. The relationship with the new Babi group and its offshoot Bahaism proved more problematic because of the unique challenges they posed.
Under Mongol rule and the Pax Mongolica, Song China became part of the much wider world of the Mongol Empire. Although it was split into four khanates in 1260, Qubilai consolidated control over Goryeo and Dali and, where conquest failed (as in Dai Viet, Kamakura Japan, and Java), pursued diplomatic and commercial relationships, especially on the Indian subcontinent. Mongol rule integrated China into an overland global economy parallel to the maritime one in the South Seas and the Indian Ocean. Ceramic production under the Mongols played a major role in maritime trade, while the blue-and-white porcelain seen in the Yuan exemplifies contact across Eurasia. Textile production likewise stimulated commerce and contact across Eurasia. Silk production long antedated this era, but patterns and designs produced under the Mongols exhibit Central Asian influences, as silk from China made its way westward as far as the Mediterranean and beyond. The Mongol era dietary, A Soup for the Qan, illustrates Eurasian interconnections visible through the lenses of food and medicine. Along with steppe shamanism, the Mongols favored Tibetan Buddhism, but they also implemented policies of official toleration toward recognized faiths (including Eastern Syriac and Roman Catholic Christianity), creating one of the most ecumenical societies in world history.
Through four regimes between 1815 and 1870, the French would regularly invent new rationales and purposes for empire. A domestic crisis of legitimization led to the invasion of Algeria in 1830. So began a French settler colony in which barely half the settlers even came from France. The revolutionaries of 1848 annexed the colonies, making them national territory. While chattel slavery was legally abolished throughout the empire, annexation meant different things in different places. Colonial incoherence continued. Missionaries fostered and legitimized imperial expansion, though the imperial state never found them completely reliable. Military entrepreneurs in Senegal and Indochina had their own agendas, and did Emperor Napoleon III, who envisaged an “Arab Kingdom” in Algeria. He also sought to expand the empire indirectly, through a disastrous scheme to place a Habsburg on a Mexican throne. The prison colony provided another brutal avenue of colonial expansion. French imperial capitalism generally prospered, though the French were so outmaneuvered by the British after building the Suez Canal that they overshadowed the French role altogether. By 1870, the whole of the French empire still somehow seemed less than the sum of its parts.
France had the second largest empire in the world after Britain, but one with very different origins and purposes. Over more than four centuries, the French empire explained itself in many different ways through many different colonial regimes. Beginning in the early modern period, a vast mercantile empire based on furs and fish in the New World and sugar cultivated by the enslaved in the Caribbean rose and fell. At intervals thereafter, the French seemed to have an empire simply as an attribute of a Great Power, generally in competition with Britain. Relatively few French people ever moved to the empire, even to the settler colony of Algeria. Under the Third Republic, the French construed a “civilizing mission” melding selectively applied principles of democracy and colonial capitalism. Two world wars and two anticolonial wars broke French imperial power as it had previously existed, yet numberless traces of the French empire lived on, both in the former colonies and in today's French Republic. This narrative history recounts the unique course of the French empire, questioning how it made sense to the people who ruled it, lived under it, and fought against it.
First published in Foreign Affairs in 1938, this essay describes the racialized regimes of labor exploitation in colonial Africa, tracing the patterns of land expropriation, resource extraction and resistance that give shape to different trajectories across the continent. Du Bois identifies immanent potentialities in this landscape from the cooperative model to the resignification of leisure. An expanded version of this essay appeared in the 1939 Black Folk Then and Now.
Already during the period between the two Opium Wars, China and its vast potential market had become a key site for legal and administrative innovations by Western diplomats, missionaries, and traders. The Qing conception of guoti 國體 or “state form/stateliness,” in particular, was creatively redeployed in an effort to articulate a diplomatic compromise during key meetings at Tianjin, Shanghai, and Beijing between 1858 and 1860, when a new multilateral international law regime for China was crafted by the invading Western powers.
On 31 October 1517 a thirty-three-year-old priest in the small German town of Wittenberg wrote a letter that would change the course of history. Addressed to the bishop of his parish, Martin Luther’s letter complained about the Roman Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences, the practice by which the Pope would grant remission from the punishment of sin. The more Luther read the Bible, the more he became convinced that it was not by performing good deeds that one obtained salvation, but by faith alone through God’s grace. It was wrong to claim, he argued in the Ninety-Five Theses contained in the letter, that indulgences could absolve buyers from eternal punishment and grant them salvation.
These indulgences were, of course, a valuable source of income for the Church, especially at a time when Pope Leo X planned to rebuild St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
In 1820, King Radama of Imerina, Madagascar signed a treaty allowing approximately one hundred young Malagasy to train abroad under official British supervision, the so-called 'Madagascar Youths'. In this lively and carefully researched book, Gwyn Campbell traces the Youths' untold history, from the signing of the treaty to their eventual recall to Madagascar. Extensive use of primary sources has enabled Campbell to explore the Madagascar Youths' experiences in Britain, Mauritius and aboard British anti-slave trade vessels, and their instrumental role in the modernisation of Madagascar. Through this remarkable history, Campbell examines how Malagasy-British relations developed, then soured, providing vital context to our understanding of slavery, mission activity and British imperialism in the nineteenth century.
The Illinois, particularly the Kaskaskia, are well known to have converted in large numbers to Catholicism under the guidance of Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. However, another lesser-known missionary society, the Missions Étrangères, also evangelized among the Illinois. The juxtaposition of these two French Catholic missionary societies working among the same Native nation provides an ideal case study to understand what aspects of Catholicism Native people appreciated and rejected. Converted Illinois people chose a specific practice of Catholicism that upheld fundamental values, enhanced gender roles and kinship connections in Illinois society, and strengthened their relationship to the secular aspects of the French empire.
This chapter charts four social channels leading into China’s Northwest at the time of the great earthquake centered in Haiyuan, Gansu, in 1920: native Gansu networks; national (political and charitable) networks; foreign (missionary and other) networks; and scientific (geological) networks. Using newspaper accounts, telegraph cables, letters and reports as they made their way through journalistic and consular channels, the chapter aims to capture different strands of cultural memory of a monumental disaster as reports of it travelled beyond stricken areas to Chinese cities and overseas. As this chapter shows, exploring the ways in which crisis events were responded to, commented on and remembered reveals a good deal about cultural practices at the time. Writing on the earthquake and wider famine fields of early republican China would reflect three increasingly conflated areas of intellectual activity around the May Fourth movement of 1919: the valorization of science and the scientific method; commentary on China’s ongoing transition to republican politics; and diagnostic exercises on the social and moral health of the nation. One key aspect of the cultural production of this period explored in this book is the invisibility it afforded certain historical actors and the indispensability it afforded others.
This chapter analyses the move of historians away from text and towards the interpretation of visuals. Starting with art history’s turn to the social and the cultural, it traces the interest of historians for an ever wider group of images, including popular images. It also highlights the emergence of perspectivalism and transdisciplinarity in the field of visual history. The main bulk of the chapter is taken up with presenting a range of examples showing how the visual turn in historical writing has contributed to deconstructing national identites, class identities and racial/ethnic identities. Ranging widely across different parts of the globe it also discusses the deconstruction of religious and gender identities through visual histories that have in total contributed much towards a much higher self-reflexivity among historians when it comes to the construction of collective identities through historical writing.