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Empire and Mission

Protestant Beginnings in India and the “pious clause”

In: Social Sciences and Missions
Author:
Will Sweetman Department of Theology and Religion, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand will.sweetman@otago.ac.nz

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The historiography of the entanglement of mission and empire in India has often taken the inclusion of the so-called “pious clause” in the East India Company’s 1813 charter to mark the end of a ban on missions in Company territories, and the beginning of a period of co-operation between church and company. This neglects the importance in this debate of the mission founded by German Lutherans in the Danish settlement of Tranquebar in south India in 1706. The mission received direct patronage from the Company for almost a full century before 1813, and was invoked by both sides in the debate over the pious clause. A work published anonymously in 1812, purporting to be a new translation of dialogues between the first missionaries in Tranquebar and their Hindu and Muslim interlocutors, is shown here to be a skilful and savage satire on the dialogues published by the first missionaries.

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