The World’s Reformation: Propagation

During the early modern era, British (and other) Protestants were far more globally aware, and actively engaged in seeking to win converts in the non-Christian world, than we have recognised. This story has been neglected in part because they pursued the ‘propagation of the Gospel’ very differently both from their Catholic contemporaries and their modern successors. These lectures will survey some of the distinctive themes of early Protestants’ global missions, from the ingenuous and often damaging preconceptions they brought to the task; through the makeshift institutions they developed or adapted to tackle it; to the deep assumptions about the God’s plan for human history and the world’s end which underpinned the whole project.

This was global Christian mission, but not as we know it. Instead of a prelude to the missionary history of the high imperial age, these lectures will argue that this story should be understood as an attempt to carry the Protestant Reformation to the world.

Lecture One: Propagation

Early modern Protestants conceived of their global encounters less as ‘mission’ than as the ‘propagation’ of the Gospel, a continuation of the Reformation in a new context. This first lecture asks what it means to see the subject in those terms, exploring the metaphors and motives behind these early ‘missionary’ efforts and also the scruples that restrained them.