University of Tasmania

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Writing for the folks back home: Colonial missionary story-telling

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 17:05 authored by Sandra Hudd
British missionary publishing in the 1880s was designed to foster public interest and support for evangelical work, primarily amongst the British public but also further afield as publications circulated more widely through formal and informal networks. This paper examines two books which were printed in London but ended up at the edge of empire in Tasmania. Robert Morrison: The pioneer of Chinese missions once belonged to the Tasmanian Gleaners’ Union Library, and is a biography of the life of Robert Morrison, the first person sent to China by the London Missionary Society. China held an ambivalent place in the Victorian imagination, being both alluring and strangely different, seemingly impervious to European influence, yet populated by millions of potential converts. The book is an example of the missionary hero, of missionary celebrity used to inspire, advertise and fund-raise. The second book, The Mela at Tulsipur: Glimpses of missionary life and work in India, is a work of fiction for children, following Horace, Hettie and their parents on a three-week journey to a Hindu festival, with its frequent opportunities to preach the Gospel. It too was written as a moral tale, encouraging young readers to “take a deeper interest in the work of bringing the knowledge of the Gospel to the children of India”. Both books provide insights into nineteenth-century colonialism and to the enmeshment of religion and empire. Both did ideological work: through such missionary publishing, the British public (and others in the colonies) learnt about the Empire and their shared imperial responsibilities.


Publication title

Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand 2017 Annual Conference: 'Connecting the colonies: Empires and networks in the history of the book'




School of Humanities


Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand

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Event title

'Connecting the colonies: Empires and networks in the history of the book'

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Hobart, Tasmania

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Date of Event (End Date)


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Other culture and society not elsewhere classified

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