2021 McDonald Centre Annual Conference


Christianity, Commerce, and Civilisation?

Missions and Empire in the Modern World


Video Presentations Now Available. See Below.

The McDonald Centre YouTube Channel is hosting the conference presentations for a limited duration. Please see the 2021 Conference Playlist here. Session-specific videos can be selected below.

Conference Abstract.
During the Modern period the study of patterns of colonialization and the development of empires has focussed on the expansion of the Western mercantile powers from the early Iberian colonisation of the Americas through to the commercial dominance of the USA and the development of multinational companies during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

A perennial question in reviewing these processes of history, commerce and politics has been the question of the role of religion and more particularly the place of Christian Missions. It is reflected in the well-known remark of David Livingstone which forms the title for our conference. The relationship is complex and took different forms over a period of four centuries, and in different areas of the globe. Just as there is not one history of empire, so too there is not simply one explanation of the role of religion or of the place of missions and missionaries in the story.

Whilst the complexity and nuances of the issues have often been recognised by professional historians, in popular discourse the debate has often been caught up in current ‘culture wars’, in which missions and missionaries have too often simply been assumed to be ‘agents of empire’. The aim of this conference, and the volume which we hope will result from it, is to explicate further the complexities of the relationships between Christianity, Missions, Colonies and Empire as they developed in the Modern era, and thereby to contribute a more considered and nuanced voice to the current polarised discussions.

Conference Sessions

Session 1, Plenary Presentation
Prof Brian Stanley
Empires Human and Divine: The Multiple Ambiguities of Mission Christianity in Imperial Contexts 

Session 2, Mission in History

A Pre-history of Protestant Mission and Empire: The Propagation of Civility or Cosmic Conflict?
Prof Alec Ryrie

British Catholic Foreign Missions and Empire
Prof Hilary Carey

Session 3, Mission and Justice

The Conception of World Christianity as a Response to Racism
Prof Kirsteen Kim

One of England’s Little Wars
Dr Cathy Ross and Dr James Butler

Session 4, Missions, Language, and Printing
The Religious Roots of Print Revolutions
Prof Robert D Woodberry

Missionaries and People’s Language: Notes from Colonial Punjab
Dr Ashish Alexander


Session 5, Missions and Military
Missions and the Military in the British Empire and Commonwealth, c.1800-1960
Prof Michael Snape

Havelock, History and Hagiography: Some 21st Century Reflections on a 19th Century Hero
Dr Nicholas Wood


Session 6, Response and Discussion
Feature Respondent, Dr Kang-San Tan