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Highly Educated Mission: The University of Leuven, the Missionary Congregations and Congo, 1885-1960

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This article discusses the relationship between the Catholic University of Leuven and the missionary congregations during the period when they were involved in the Belgian colony of the Congo. Their relationship was successful and longstanding, thanks to local networks and interaction between the two institutions, as well as to their shared values and complementary strengths. The forms of cooperation in which they engaged ranged widely, from setting up student missionary movements and teaching programmes for missionaries to providing agricultural and medical university support at the mission stations; and from studying the colonial language experience of the missionary to large-scale cooperation as was the case with Lovanium. These examples indicate that the partnership was active both in Leuven and in the Congo. The missionary archives, however, reveal that the colonial reality could differ from the image that was created in official language and propaganda. From 1955 onwards, as the movement for independence was gaining strength, the process of decolonization set in and the cooperation collapsed.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History of the University of Leuven, African horizon of the University of Leuven; 2: Department of History of the University of Leuven, intellectual and cultural history


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