Darin Lenz paper explores experiences of nineteenth-century missionaries

Darin D. Lenz, Ph.D., associate professor of history, presented a paper as part of the Maritime Missions: Religion, Ethnography and Empires in the Long Eighteenth Century workshop at the German Historical Institute (GHI), Washington, D.C., May 25, 2019. The paper was titled “Immersed in Dependency: American Missionaries, Empires, and India in the 1830s.” According to GHI, the conference brings together scholars whose work examines how the Pacific, Atlantic, East Asian and Mediterranean oceans were deeply interlinked by missionary activities from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries.” More on the conference at: ghi-dc.org/events-conferences/event-history/2019/conferences/maritime-missions.html?L=0&fbclid=IwAR2CmMsVf7Si3MNySiRWTgdRz3jv_J1Ox7cTLeENnxMH-dukgVGtunIG3dU

From the paper’s Abstract: In March of 1831, three American missionary families commenced service with the American Marathi Mission in Bombay. The Ramsey, Hervey, and Read families soon discovered that India was more difficult to comprehend and to evangelize than they had imagined. Within three years, half of the party had died, and, by the fourth year, all the survivors had left the mission and returned to the United States. Their story is similar to what happened to many American missionaries who engaged in maritime missions and sought to expand the “Empire of Christ” in an age of empires. Underlying the experience of many of these missionaries was a profound sense of alienation. Beginning with their travel on the high seas and followed by the days, months, and years they spent in India, missionaries were confronted by circumstances that altered their perception of themselves and forced them to ask questions about their relationship to the necessaries of everyday life, colonial culture and politics, and their knowledge of the peoples whom they imagined they would persuade to join the Christian faith. The aim of this paper is to analyze how American missionaries in the 1830s endeavored to locate themselves in incongruent milieux as they confronted the reality of their everyday lives and realized that they were immersed in layers of dependency.




Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations