So today I bring you an article that I decided to write after doing a lot of reading on colonial empires, specifically the 19th century. My aim in this post is to show maybe a different side to the colonies that maybe you have previously seen. My defence is of Christianity on a whole, and my attack will be on the secular governments of Britain and France. We are often told, that those Christians forced converted all these tribes and believed that they had to go and teach these good old savages a lesson. Now, I admit to you the reader, which I am biased on this matter, I myself am a Christian, and my post isn’t to excuse any bad things done by those who did bad things in the name of God, but to show that maybe the main villain of the colonies was perhaps the secular governments whose god was science.
Now this all seems rather a lot, and maybe a tad controversial, I’m not sure, but let me give you a list of what the governments did, in the name of civilization and science. Schools were destroyed, religions on a whole (including Christianity) were seen as inferior, tribes and people were invaded. People were divided, tribes were shown favour, whilst others were left to be below the others. Towns and cities were built, in a western style, the only thing the church was, was to be a symbol of Westernised culture, to remind those in the colonies who ruled them. The good, well civilized Christian man (even though he wasn’t) was in control. Now you may turn round and say, but England and France, they were two Christian countries surely? Well, not really, secularism was on the increase from 1850 and religion was declining, people were turning to science, and this can be clearly seen but censuses and such. In France, the Catholic Church was under immense pressure and was not well liked by its own government, with a series of attacks on the church during the 19th century. I argue that maybe it was science and prestige that led the large colonial grabs, that the need to enlighten to world to the wonders of science was actually the main driving force for this, whilst, they excused themselves, hiding behind Christianity as their excuse.
So, the church, yes they did some bad things and they didn’t necessarily view other religions in a great light, but what they did might surprise you. The missionaries were on a whole, largely the only people who would go live with a community, learn its language, and stay with the tribe for years, becoming friends with the natives, yes they had a purpose, to evangelise, and many tribes were curious, but it seems it was never forced on most tribes. In fact, the only people to really care about education in the 19th century was the church, it was them who set up Sunday schools, which could help the tribes to read and write to a point, granted it wasn’t as good was what they had before, but it was better than nothing, better than what the so-called secular governments gave the tribes.
It was somehow believed that by giving the people of Africa and Asia great science and great ideas would make their lives better, I don’t see how we did; in fact look at the wars, the dictators that arose after the colonies collapsed, all of that was a result of years of colonial rule. The church, whether Protestant or Catholic really did little in the colonies, and only did what they could to improve the lives of the tribes (on a whole, they were of course exceptions to this), and I would argue history has blamed Christians for this colonial expansion and destruction, when actually the blame should be put on secular governments and the desire to spread science and civilisation.