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Origins of Church Missionary Society Accommodation to Imperial Policy: The Sierra Leone Quagmire and the Closing of the Susu Mission, 1804-17

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A series of events in 1807 changed the mission of the early Church Missionary Society in Sierra Leone from one that was designed initially and solely to spread the Christian message in the interior of West Africa to one that included service to the Colony of Sierra Leone. Before 1807, the Society had identified the Susu language as the appointed language to be used in its conversion effort, and it intended to establish an exclusively Susu Mission—in Susu Country and independent of government attachment—that would prepare a vanguard of African catechists and missionaries to carry that message in the Susu language. In 1807, however, the Society's London-based board and the missionaries then present at Sierra Leone made a strategic shift of emphasis to accept government protection and support in return for a bargain of government service, while at the same time continuing with earlier and independent goals of carrying the message of Christianity to native Africans. That choice prepared the Society and its missionaries within a decade to significantly increase the Society's role in Britain's attempt to bring civilization, commerce and Christianity to the continent, and to do it within the confines of imperial policy.

Affiliations: 1: Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 2323 Mississippi Street, La Crosse, WI 54601, USA;, Email:


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