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Nature and the Godly Empire

Nature and the Godly Empire
Science and Evangelical Mission in the Pacific, 1795–1850

$94.99 (C)

Part of Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories

  • Date Published: December 2005
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521848367

$ 94.99 (C)
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About the Authors
  • Nineteenth-century historians have described how science became secular and how scientific theories such as evolution justified colonialism. This book changes this narrative by offering the first account of 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 practiced functioned as a popular science that was inextricably linked with religious expansion.

    • Was the first book to analyse the relations between science and religion in the non-Western world in the nineteenth century
    • Draws on a rich and varied base of primary research
    • Essential reading for historians of empire, science, religion and the environment
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Sivasundaram makes a compelling argument for science as a key plank of evangelical ideology and for missionary natural history as an important form of nineteenth-century knowledge: one that cannot be reduced to merely religion, science or colonialism, but which forms an interlocking modality of colonial knowledge that established a highly influential non-elite science."
    -Anna Jonston, University of Tasmania, Victorian Studies

    "Sivasundaram tellingly illustrates the missionaries' complex discursive engagement with the Pacific and its mediation through intersecting ideas of religion, civilization, and science...Nature and the Godly Empire offers rich insights into missionary discourse and the metaphorical deployment of nature in an extra-Europe context."
    -David Arnold, University of Warwick, Journal of Modern History

    "This book explores the interconnections between science, evangelical missions, and empire during the first half of the nineteenth century....The book contributes to a growing body of scholarship challenging the notion that secularization constitutes the Big Story of science during the nineteenth century....The book will force historians to question sharp modern distinctions between science and religion, the spiritual and the material, evangelicalism and Enlightenment, colonies and metropis, tradition and modernity, if they want to understand missionary and indigenous cultures..."
    --John Stenhouse, University of Otago, The International History Review

    "...an ambitious, ingenious, erudite, and well-written attempt to explain the scientific role of Christian missions featuring the work of the London Missionary Society (LMS) in the southeast Pacific." -Neil Gunson, Journal of World History

    ‘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 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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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2005
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521848367
    • length: 258 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 160 x 21 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The light of the sun: stimulus for mission
    2. The growth of the mind: nature and mission education
    3. The seed of the soul: conversion illustrated by nature
    4. The body that will bloom: death and its theology of nature
    5. The plants of the land: building settlements of civilisation
    6. The idol of weeds: the exchange and display of nature.

  • Author

    Sujit Sivasundaram, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge

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