British East India Company Chaplains and their Encounters with Hindus and Muslims in India, 1785-1813
This thesis investigates the writings and activities of several chaplains who were employed for the British East India Company (EIC) between 1785 and 1813 by focusing on their encounters with Hindus and Muslims in India. The four chaplains chosen for my research (Revs. David Brown, William Tennant, Claudius Buchanan, and Henry Martyn) sought to spread Protestant Christianity throughout British India. However, instead of evangelizing to Hindus and Muslims, these chaplains more often engaged in alternative forms of interreligious encounter that allowed them to closely interact with and learn about India’s religious culture without going against the EIC’s policy which prohibited missionary activity in its territory prior to its 1813 Charter Renewal. Building on the research of other historians of Christianity and interreligious relations in British India, as well as focused studies of the chaplains, this thesis analyzes primary documents written by these chaplains to understand their thoughts on Christian missions, evangelism, and their encounters with Hindus and Muslims in India. I have categorized their encounters into three of the most prominent kinds that appear in their writings, and also form the focus of this thesis’ body chapters: Anglo-Indian schooling, proto-ethnographic writing about Hinduism, and Bible translation into Indian languages. From these findings, I argue that while the chaplains had little success in their own time converting non-Christian Indian people, their writings still shed helpful light on interreligious relations in British India and British Protestant perceptions of India’s religious culture around the early nineteenth century. These findings remain significant for historians today when critically examining the history of Christianity and interreligious relations more broadly by showing how even though the chaplains’ imperial context shaped and constrained their encounters, it did not ultimately determine the more complex, mutual or occasionally collaborative nature of their interactions with Hindu and Muslim people in British India.
Interreligious Relations, East India Company, British India, Christian Missions, Religion, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam
Master of Arts (M.A.)