Between 1880 and 1914, tens of thousands of men and women left France for distant religious missions, driven by the desire to spread the word of Jesus Christ, combat Satan, and convert the world's pagans to Catholicism. But they were not the only ones with eyes fixed on foreign shores. Just as the Catholic missionary movement reached its apex, the young, staunchly secular Third Republic launched the most aggressive campaign of colonial expansion in French history. Missionaries and republicans abroad knew they had much to gain from working together, but their starkly different motivations regularly led them to view one another with resentment, distrust, and even fear.
In An Empire Divided, J.P. Daughton tells the story of how troubled relations between Catholic missionaries and a host of republican critics shaped colonial policies, Catholic perspectives, and domestic French politics in the tumultuous decades before the First World War. With case studies on Indochina, Polynesia, and Madagascar, An Empire Divided--the first book to examine the role of religious missionaries in shaping French colonialism--challenges the long-held view that French colonizing and "civilizing" goals were shaped by a distinctly secular republican ideology built on Enlightenment ideals. By exploring the experiences of Catholic missionaries, one of the largest groups of French men and women working abroad, Daughton argues that colonial policies were regularly wrought in the fires of religious discord--discord that indigenous communities exploited in responding to colonial rule.
After decades of conflict, Catholics and republicans in the empire ultimately buried many of their disagreements by embracing a notion of French civilization that awkwardly melded both Catholic and republican ideals. But their entente came at a price, with both sides compromising long-held and much-cherished traditions for the benefit of establishing and maintaining authority. Focusing on the much-neglected intersection of politics, religion, and imperialism, Daughton offers a new understanding of both the nature of French culture and politics at the fin de siecle, as well as the power of the colonial experience to reshape European's most profound beliefs. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (2)
French colonial ideology - inconsistent and surprising
Defined as `ideas behind, motivations for and implementation of programs designed to reform and develop colonial societies,' French colonial ideology was not programmatic and did not borne out of revolutionary republican values.Instead, the case studies of Indochina, Madagascar and Tahiti and the Marquesas revealed it to be `a set of individual projects defined by degrees of dissent, debate, competition and collaboration between people both at home and abroad.'At the forefront of the empire, missionaries, Daughton argued, are essential to understanding republican attitudes toward colonialism.Civilizing policies came about `in the fires of religious resentment and political confrontation,' an exchange that underscored `les deux France' but exposed `how malleable and fragmented Catholic and Republic ideologies really were.'
Taking place in the backdrop of nationalism, the Dreyfus affair was emblematic of `two competing concepts of French identity,' pitting the `republicans versus Catholics, secular versus religious and left versus right.'Prior to 1880s, missionaries `rejected liberalism and nationalism and remained committed to Catholic traditions.' Pere Guelach epitomized those views as he `failed to see their work tied to French rule, was openly hostile about many of his lay compatriots and even believed the savages will have a higher place in heaven.'After 1880s, anticlericalism of metropolitan France not only challenged the missionaries in the colonies but could also militated against the republicans' own civilizing goals.
A complicated collaboration existed in Indochina: the administration used `the missions as effective tools for spreading French influence' while the Catholic missionaries, such as Bishop Puginier, sought to influence the government to benefit evangelizing.The Freemasons' fierce attack in Meyrena affair, best exemplified by Camile Paris' polemics, compelled the missions `to deflect criticism and protect missions from damaging legislation' by declaring patriotism and `retooling religious goals to correspond with the republican civilizing mission.'Aimed to sway public opinion, the clerical authority reinvented Pigneau `as both a hero for Catholicism and a dedicated servant of French colonialism.'For the sake of social stability, high-ranking French officials, such as Klobukowski, `did not take sides' and adopted policies that created `independent republican organizations like the Mission laique.'As a result, even after bearing the blunt of the anticlerical attacks, the missions remained in place and prospered in Indochina.
On the other hand, the failure of the Tahiti and the Marquesas missions to defend themselves against attacks and voice patriotism invited wholesale dismantlement.`Gender influenced republican approach to civilization,' and prior to the anticlerical era, worked in favor of the missionary sisters, who `represented hope for future Polynesian mother and their families.'As the region experienced rapid depopulation, the deficiencies of the civilizing mission reported by the likes of painter Paul Gaugauin with accounts and fiction pieces that inculpated the missions and officials' deceptions and induced successful anticlerical assault against the Catholic missions.In 1904, Governor Cor `shut down the all Catholic schools and revoked their official legal status.'The replacing ecoles laiques `drew only a fraction of the students the missions had' the anti-Catholic polices, in effect, `sacrificed the republic's own colonial ideology- its own civilizing mission- in the process.'
Ironically, Madagascar was a complete bouleversement of fortune for the Catholics and stranger still, the Jesuits.Driven by the fear of a Malagasy insurrection incited by the English Protestant, the colonial government `accepted and even cheered Catholic mission in the pacification of the country.'Furthermore, with `a long tradition of affinity for the Catholic church,' the military backed the Jesuits.Governor-general Augagneur's 1905 anti-Protestant reform policies that restricted `building and maintaining churches, religious meetings and job opportunities for church-school students not only sacrificed republican civilizing ideology' but also attracted British pressure to guarantee freedom of religion.The resulting 1913 decree `gave legal legitimacy to Catholic missions by officially recognizing them' since the officials in Paris could not possibly grant freedom only to Protestants - that was how the British Protestants helped save French Catholicism.
During the intervening years, the missionaries sought to reshape public perception by defining their `main occupation as an essentially French characteristics.'The defense and campaigns by publications like the Almanach des Missions, Annales and Missions Catholiques, emphasized the `missionary's contributions to colonialism' and infused a `rhetorical blend of Christianity, civilization and patriotism.'Histories were rewritten and retold.An Empire Divided explored the idiosyncrasies of French colonial ideology and the centrality of patriotism, at least outwardly, in the dialogue between the different actors of the civilizing missions.
A brilliant book!
This is an extraordinary book that casts France's global empire in a new light.In crisp and lively writing, the author reveals how Catholic missionaries lay at the heart of an ostensibly secular republican project. This exciting and original book should interest all readers who want to explore the history of modern France, colonialism, and the intersection of religion and politics in the modern world.
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