An imperial apostle? St Paul, Protestant conversion and south Asian Christianity

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This article explores the locally specific (re)construction of a biblical figure, the Apostle St Paul, in India, to unravel the entanglement of religion with British imperial ideology on the one hand, and to understand the dynamics of colonial conversion on the other. Over the nineteenth century, evangelical pamphlets and periodicals heralded St Paul as the ideal missionary, who championed conversion to Christianity but within an imperial context: that of the first-century Roman Mediterranean. Through an examination of missionary discourses, along with a study of Indian (Hindu and Islamic) intellectual engagement with Christianity including Bengali convert narratives, this article studies St Paul as a reference point for understanding the contours of ‘vernacular Christianity’ in nineteenth-century India. Drawing upon colonial Christian publications mainly from Bengal, the article focuses on the multiple reconfigurations of Paul: as a crucial mascot of Anglican Protestantism, as a justification of British imperialism, as an ideological resource for anti-imperial sentiments, and as a theological inspiration for Hindu reform and revivalist organization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-130
Number of pages28
JournalHistorical Journal
Issue number1
Early online date27 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018

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