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Nature and the Godly Empire

Science and Evangelical Mission in the Pacific, 1795-1850

Nature and the Godly Empire

Science and Evangelical Mission in the Pacific, 1795-1850

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Hardback

£73.00

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9780521848367
Number of Pages: 258
Published: 17/11/2005
Width: 16 cm
Height: 23.5 cm
Nineteenth-century historians have described how science became secular and how scientific theories such as evolution justified colonialism. This book explores the relationship between nineteenth-century science and Christianity outside the Western world. At focus are the intrepid missionaries of the London Missionary Society who reverently surveyed the oceans and islands of the Pacific and instructed converts to observe nature in order to interpret God's designs. Sujit Sivasundaram argues that the knowledge that these missionaries practised functioned as a popular science that was inextricably linked with religious expansion. He shows how Britain's providential empire found support from popular views of nature as much as elite science and how science and religion came together in communities far from the metropolis even as disputes raged in Europe. This will be essential reading for historians of empire, science and religion, cultural historians, environmental historians and anthropologists.

Sujit Sivasundaram (Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge)

Sujit Sivasundaram is Research Fellow in History at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

Review of the hardback: 'Sivasundaram makes a fine case for considering missionary natural history as a credible form of science during the early nineteenth century. ... This book will force historians to question sharp modern distinctions between science and religion, the spiritual and the material, evangelicalism and enlightenment, colonies and metropolis, tradition and modernity, when it comes to understanding missionary and indigenous categories. Only by finding more adequate organizing concepts, and provincializing the binary categories generated by the historical experience of modern Europe, will we understand cultural transformations during a period in which Christianity, dwindling in its old European heartlands, boomed beyond the West.' British Journal of the History of Science Review of the hardback: 'For once a cover blurb gets it right: this is the first sustained account of the relationship between nineteenth-century science and Christianity outside the western world, and it mounts a powerful challenge to traditional interpretations of the relationship between science, religion and empire.' Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History Review of the hardback: '... an intriguing exploration ... adds depth to the field through its fresh reading of missionary publications and visual archives of this episode of Britain's world-wide evangelical push.' American Historical Review Review of the hardback: 'An impressive, methodologically successful, example of the unification of the history of science and imperial history ... an important contribution to British history.' Sehepunkte 'Colonial knowledge has assumed an increasingly important position in scholarship on British empire building in the Pacific. Sujit Sivasundaram's Nature and the Godly Empire is a key contribution to this developing line of enquiry. This richly textured monograph examines the connections between scientific knowledge and practice and the work of the London Missionary Society (LMS) in Polynesia. Sivasundaram convincingly argues that the understandings of the natural world that missionaries brought to the Pacific were central to the ideology of the mission.' The Historical Journal 'Nature and [the] Godly Empire is a very interesting study of one of the key motors of Victorian culture and society, and its best sections sparkle with original analysis. It is precise and informative - the section about the LMS museum in London and the society's collecting culture is terrific - and it makes an important contribution to scholarship in the field.' Victorian Studies 'Sivasundaram's book is a mine of new or off-the-beaten track information ... It would appear to be essential reading for the historian of Christian expansion ... for the missiologist reflecting on the cross-cultural communication of the Gospel; and to be sure, for any student of British Christianity in the early nineteenth century.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History

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