Catalogue


The poor Indians : British missionaries, Native Americans, and colonial sensibility /
Laura M. Stevens.
imprint
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2004.
description
264 p.
ISBN
0812238125 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
series title
imprint
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2004.
isbn
0812238125 (cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
5216343
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2005-06-01:
From the beginning of European transoceanic expansion in 1492, missionaries accompanied and indeed abetted the colonizing process. If the numbers of permanent Christian converts defines success, most missions must be reckoned failures. But that measure of success is too narrow, for missions had latent functions and effects. From the colonial point of view, they helped defuse resistance and undermine Native culture. From the Native point of view, they could and often did teach European literacy and other coping tactics. Sometimes, paradoxically, they functioned to promote Native personal and cultural survival, as did Moravian missions to the Mohicans in the 18th century. Stevens (English, Univ. of Tulsa) deals with British missionization from 1642 to about 1776, focusing on the ideology, rhetoric, and consequences of missionary writings. These aimed to arouse feelings of moral obligation in Christians at home and move them to monetary contributions. In that, they were successful, and in the process they reinforced both Christian faith and imperial objectives in their supporters. Missionary writings also shaped prevalent images of Indians in significant ways, as Stevens reveals. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Academic libraries, upper-division undergraduates and above. R. Berleant-Schiller emerita, University of Connecticut
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Eloquent and important. . . . This is a work of careful textual analysis that harbors many riches for historians. Stevens's analysis of the discourse of Christian charity will travel well into other fields and periods of study, particularly those that address Christian missions to Africans and African-Americans."- Literature and History
"Eloquent and important. . . . This is a work of careful textual analysis that harbors many riches for historians. Stevens's analysis of the discourse of Christian charity will travel well into other fields and periods of study, particularly those that address Christian missions to Africans and African-Americans."-- Literature and History
"Stevens has written a thoughtful study of British missionary culture. Most important, she reveals how philanthropy shaped the identity of a transatlantic British public and the ways that identity has resonated from the seventeenth century all the way up to our time."- New England Quarterly
"Stevens has written a thoughtful study of British missionary culture. Most important, she reveals how philanthropy shaped the identity of a transatlantic British public and the ways that identity has resonated from the seventeenth century all the way up to our time."-- New England Quarterly
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, June 2005
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
Between the English Civil War of 1642 and the American Revolution, countless British missionaries announced their intention to "spread the gospel" among the native North American population. Despite the scope of their endeavors, they converted only a handful of American Indians to Christianity. Their attempts to secure moral and financial support at home proved much more successful. In The Poor Indians , Laura Stevens delves deeply into the language and ideology British missionaries used to gain support, and she examines their wider cultural significance. Invoking pity and compassion for "the poor Indian"--a purely fictional construct--British missionaries used the Black Legend of cruelties perpetrated by Spanish conquistadors to contrast their own projects with those of Catholic missionaries, whose methods were often brutal and deceitful. They also tapped into a remarkably effective means of swaying British Christians by connecting the latter's feelings of religious superiority with moral obligation. Describing mission work through metaphors of commerce, missionaries asked their readers in England to invest, financially and emotionally, in the cultivation of Indian souls. As they saved Indians from afar, supporters renewed their own faith, strengthened the empire against the corrosive effects of paganism, and invested in British Christianity with philanthropic fervor. The Poor Indians thus uncovers the importance of religious feeling and commercial metaphor in strengthening imperial identity and colonial ties, and it shows how missionary writings helped fashion British subjects who were self-consciously transatlantic and imperial because they were religious, sentimental, and actively charitable.
Main Description
Between the English Civil War of 1642 and the American Revolution, countless British missionaries announced their intention to "spread the gospel" among the native North American population. Despite the scope of their endeavors, they converted only a handful of American Indians to Christianity. Their attempts to secure moral and financial support at home proved much more successful. In The Poor Indians , Laura Stevens delves deeply into the language and ideology British missionaries used to gain support, and she examines their wider cultural significance. Invoking pity and compassion for "the poor Indian"-a purely fictional construct-British missionaries used the Black Legend of cruelties perpetrated by Spanish conquistadors to contrast their own projects with those of Catholic missionaries, whose methods were often brutal and deceitful. They also tapped into a remarkably effective means of swaying British Christians by connecting the latter's feelings of religious superiority with moral obligation. Describing mission work through metaphors of commerce, missionaries asked their readers in England to invest, financially and emotionally, in the cultivation of Indian souls. As they saved Indians from afar, supporters renewed their own faith, strengthened the empire against the corrosive effects of paganism, and invested in British Christianity with philanthropic fervor. The Poor Indians thus uncovers the importance of religious feeling and commercial metaphor in strengthening imperial identity and colonial ties, and it shows how missionary writings helped fashion British subjects who were self-consciously transatlantic and imperial because they were religious, sentimental, and actively charitable.
Main Description
Missionary work, arising from a sense of pity, helped convince the British that they were a benevolent people. Stevens relates this to the rise of the cult of sensibility, when philosophers argued that humans were inherently good because they felt sorrow at the sign of suffering.
Table of Contents
Introduction: "The Common Bowels of Pity to the Miserable"
Gold for Glass, Seeds to Fruit: Husbandry and Trade in Missionary Writings
"I Have Received Your Christian and Very Loving Letter": Epistolarity and Transatlantic Community
"The Reservoir of National Charity": The Role of the Missionary Society
Indians, Deists, and the Anglican Quest for Compassion: The Sermons of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts
The Sacrifice of Self: Emotional Expenditure and Transatlantic Ties in Brainerd's and Sergeant's Biographies
"Like Snow Against the Sun": The Christian Origins of the Vanishing Indian
Conclusion
Notes
Index
Acknowledgments
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem