Providential empire? The established Church of England and the Nineteenth-Century British Empire in India

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In the early nineteenth century, many in Britain believed that their conquests in India had a providential purpose, and that imperial Britain had been called by God to Christianize India through an alliance of Church and empire. In 1813, parliament not only opened India to missionary activity, but also provided India with an established Church, which was largely supported by Indian taxation and formed part of the established Church of England. Many hoped that this union of Church and empire would communicate to India the benefits of England’s diocesan and parochial structures, with a settled pastorate, parish churches and schools, and a Christian gentry. As the century progressed, the established Church was steadily enlarged, with a growing number of bishoprics, churches, schools, colleges, missionaries and clergy. But it had only limited success in gaining converts, and many Indians viewed it as a form of colonization. From the 1870s, it was increasingly clear that imperial India would not become Christian. Some began re-conceptualizing the providential purpose behind the Indian empire, suggesting that the purpose might be to promote dialogue and understanding between the religions of the East and West, or, through the selfless service of missionaries, to promote moral reform movements in Hinduism and Islam.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-259
Number of pages35
JournalStudies in Church History
Early online date14 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


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