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Indigenous Medical Practices and the Advent of CMS Medical Evangelism in Nineteenth-Century Yorubaland

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Researchers on Africa recognise that in the pre-colonial era, African beliefs about religion and medicine were complementary and indeed interconnected. From Gloria Waite’s study of pre-colonial Bantu public health systems, to Paul Landau’s paper on surgical evangelism in nineteenth-century Southern Africa, discourses on Africa have made crucial links between indigenous beliefs about health and those concerning religion. However, although these connections have also been recognised in Yorubaland, exactly how they were actualised in the pre-colonial context remain unexplored. This essay seeks to correct this. Using the nineteenth-century journals of Church Missionary Society (CMS) missionaries spanning four decades from their arrival in 1846 until the advent of the CMS medical mission in 1885, this article explores the complexities of nineteenth-century local beliefs about religion, health, and healing. It proposes that because of these links, CMS missionaries in the region needed to practice medical evangelism if they hoped to win Yoruba converts.

Affiliations: 1: University of Exeter


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