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A collection of original essays by leading scholars in the field, In God's Empire examines the complex ways in which the spread of Christianity by French men and women shaped local communities, French national prowess, and global politics in the two centuries following the French Revolution. More than a story of religious proselytism, missionary activity was an essential feature of French contact and interaction with local populations. In many parts of the world, missionaries were the first French men and women to work and live among indigenous societies. For all the celebration of France's secular "civilizing mission," it was more often than not religious workers who actually fulfilled the daily tasks of running schools, hospitals, and orphanages. While their work was often tied to small villages, missionaries' interactions had geopolitical implications. Focusing on many regions - from the Ottoman Empire and North America to Indochina and the Pacific Ocean - this book explores how France used missionaries' long connections with local communities as a means of political influence and justification for colonial expansion.
In God's Empire offers readers both an overview of the major historical dimensions of the French evangelical enterprise, as well as an introduction to the theoretical and methodological challenges of placing French missionary work within the context of European, imperial, religious history, and world history.
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Owen White is Associate Professor of History at the University of Delaware and the author of Children of the French Empire: Miscegenation and Colonial Society in French West Africa, 1895-1960 (OUP, 1999).
J.P. Daughton is Associate Professor of History at Stanford University and the author of An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880-1914 (OUP, 2006), which won the George Louis Beer Prize of the American Historical Association and the Alf Andrew Heggoy Prize of the French Colonial Historical Society.
"An excellent foray into the complicated relationship between missionaries, empire, and modernity. The volume engages scholarship on race, colonialism, and gender while adding an important and heretofore understudied element: missions and religion...Comparative exploration of French religious and secular policy across the colonies helps to explain the multiple contradictions of the imperial project and its complicated relationship with secularism. The thoughtful contributions span geographical, temporal, and ecclesiastical boundaries and provide fodder for many future conversations. This volume will engage scholars working on the history of empire, religion, and the contradictions of modernity, and is crucial reading for anyone examining these topics."--Elise Franklin, H-Empire
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