“Placing French Missionaries in the Modern World,” (with Owen White), in White and Daughton (eds.), In God’s Empire: French Missionaries and the Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
This introductory chapter assesses the way in which religious missionaries have been dealt with—and often ignored—in the historiography of modern French colonialism. Missionaries defy many of the categories commonly used to study the history of empires. Religious workers complicate concepts like modernity, nationalism, and even empire since they regularly portrayed themselves as inheritors of a biblical tradition of evangelizing across national and imperial borders for the greater glory of God. The myriad struggles created by missionary work in the age of secular empires only became accentuated with the rise of anticolonialism and national independence movements in the wake of the Second World War.