In 1812, eight American missionaries, under the direction of the recently formed American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, sailed from the United States to South Asia. The plans that motivated their voyage were ano less grand than taking part in the Protestant conversion of the entire world. Over the next several decades, these men and women were joined by hundreds more American missionaries at stations all over the globe. Emily Conroy-Krutz shows the surprising extent of the early missionary impulse and demonstrates that American evangelical Protestants of the early nineteenth century were motivated by Christian imperialism—an understanding of international relations that asserted the duty of supposedly Christian nations, such as the United States and Britain, to use their colonial and commercial power to spread Christianity.
In describing how American missionaries interacted with a range of foreign locations (including India, Liberia, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, North America, and Singapore) and imperial contexts, Christian Imperialism provides a new perspective on how Americans thought of their country’s role in the world. While in the early republican period many were engaged in territorial expansion in the west, missionary supporters looked east and across the seas toward Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Conroy-Krutz’s history of the mission movement reveals that strong Anglo-American and global connections persisted through the early republic. Considering Britain and its empire to be models for their work, the missionaries of the American Board attempted to convert the globe into the image of Anglo-American civilization.
Emily Conroy-Krutz is Assistant Professor of History at Michigan State University.
Table of Contents
Prologue: An American Missionary in London
Introduction: Christian Imperialism and American Foreign Missions
1. Hierarchies of Heathenism
2. Missions on the British Model
3. Mission Schools and the Meaning of Conversion
4. Missions as Settler Colonies
5. American Politics and the Cherokee Mission
6. Missionaries and Colonies
7. A "Christian Colony" in Singapore
Conclusion: Missions and American Imperialism
What People are Saying About This
Christine Leigh Heyrman
Christian Imperialism offers a fresh and discerning exploration of the links between evangelicalism and empire in the early republic. Emily Conroy-Krutz raises big questions about the impact of the formative decades of the American foreign missions movement and sets forth informed, challenging answers.
These pages are populated by idealistic Americans whose dreams of remaking the world become tangled up in uncomfortably familiar contradictions. Moved by heartfelt universalist convictions, their program nevertheless presupposed clear racial and civilizational hierarchies. Gratefully traveling in the wake of imperialists, many soon found themselves bitterly opposing colonialism and empire. Through telling comparisons and strikingly fresh connections, Emily Conroy-Krutz artfully recovers the audacious global horizons of U.S. missionaries in the first half of the nineteenth century.
In Christian Imperialism, Emily Conroy-Krutz shows how the growth of evangelical religion in the early nineteenth century had an outward-looking face as well as a domestic one. Religious identity both complemented and competed with national identity. Conroy-Krutz argues that from a very early date Americans had imperial aspirations that extended beyond the borders of the United States and the limits of North America and reached across the globe. This is a terrific contribution to our understanding of the early republic.