Accepted Paper:

Issues in the writing of missionary biography: James Long of Bengal, 1814-87  

Author:

Geoffrey Oddie (University of Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

The purpose of this paper is to raise issues relating to the writing of biographies of missionaries in India during the colonial period. The speaker will focus on his own experience of writing a biography of James Long of Bengal, 1814-87.

Paper long abstract:

Issues in the Writing of Missionary Biography: James Long of Bengal, 1814-87

The purpose of this paper is to raise issues relating to the writing of biographies of missionaries in India during the colonial period. The speaker will focus on his own experience of writing a biography of James Long of Bengal (1814-87). A long-term study involving visits to England, Ireland, Bengal and Russia facilitated the discovery, reading and interpretation of a wide range of varied sources, and research into the ideas and issues affecting the subjects life. One of the purposes of the project was not only research into the details of Long's life, but also the gaining of a thorough understanding of religion, social conflict and colonialism in India during the nineteenth century. Indeed, every biographer should know and understand the context that at times can be extremely wide. Linked with this study were other issues that face missionary biographers. These include the location of the missionaries' educational records, the interpretation of candidates' papers (if they exist) and a knowledge of the purpose and structure of missionary agencies and propaganda. A reading of a missionaries' life through published material including obituaries, sometimes tells us more about those who controlled information than it does about the subject,while the missionary's unpublished comments in missionary and non-missionary sources, and views expressed in private correspondence, these sources may give us a better idea of the individual's basic concerns, feeling and motivation.

Panel P47
Of saints, converts, and heroes: hagiographies and conversion auto/biographies across religions in South Asia