Journal of Historical Political Economy > Vol 2 > Issue 2

The Empire Within: Longitudinal Evidence on the Expansion of Christian Missions in Colonial Africa

Bastian Becker, University of Bremen, Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy (SOCIUM), Germany,
Suggested Citation
Bastian Becker (2022), "The Empire Within: Longitudinal Evidence on the Expansion of Christian Missions in Colonial Africa", Journal of Historical Political Economy: Vol. 2: No. 2, pp 333-362.

Publication Date: 25 Jul 2022
© 2022 B. Becker
Public Economics,  Comparative political economy,  Government,  Political economy,  Political networks,  Religion and politics


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In this article:


Christian missions played an essential role for European colonial empires, often entering territories before European powers officially claimed control. While interactions between governmental and religious actors and their long-term consequences have been subject to earlier studies, little is known about the temporal dynamics of colonization. This paper uses new historical data (1792–1924) to provide a detailed quantitative account of the modern missionary movement in Africa and to estimate the causal impact of the continent's colonization on the missionary empire. The results show that colonization tripled the number of missions entering a territory. In more restrictive colonies, it was primarily national missions from the colonizer's metropole whose presence was boosted. Furthermore, foreign missions lost ground in locations that were of high religious import. The findings attest to State–Church synergies in colonies and demonstrate the importance of national linkages. They improve our understanding of how colonial and missionary empires expanded and have important implications for the study of colonial and missionary legacies.



Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 2, Issue 2 Special Issue - The Political Economy of Empire: Articles Overview
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.