For God's Sake : The Work and Long-Term Impact of Christian Missionaries in Cameroon 1844-2018
Summary, in English
I create novel historical databases documenting the temporal and spatial extent of missionary expansion in Cameroon by drawing on newly collected and largely unexplored data from annual mission reports. I further link geocoded historical information on the scope of mission work to data on individual-level educational achievement and health care infrastructure in Cameroon today. Qualitative evidence, financial records, and staff censuses from missionary reports allow for a deeper understanding of the interdependencies of missionary work with the indigenous population during the colonial era.
I find that the spatial extent of formal schooling was influenced by several geographical and spatio-historical features as well as characteristics of the local indigenous societies. In doing so, I move beyond existing research that mostly relied on inaccurate and Eurocentric historical atlases and often insufficiently accounted for the determinants of missionary locations in assessing the long-term effect of mission work on contemporary outcomes. Further, I identify a persistent and positive impact of colonial-era missionary investments in education and health care on Cameroonians’ schooling achievements, educational gender equality, and access to health care today. Potential mechanisms underlying this long-lasting impact are cultural shifts – set in motion by the work of missionaries – regarding the value of schooling and Western medicine, and the persistence of schooling and health care physical infrastructure. The magnitude of these effects differs by missionary denomination for educational outcomes, and between missionary societies and the colonial government for health care access.
Finally, I highlight the crucial role of Africans in the functioning of missionary work in Cameroon before World War I. Missions relied on the local acceptance of indigenous chiefs and depended predominantly on African personnel to facilitate the rapid and cost-efficient expansion of the missionary sphere of influence. While the financial contributions of indigenous Cameroonians to the mission funds were low (yet non-negligible) relative to donations from Europe and America during German colonial rule, Africans’ willingness to accept Christianity and their demand for missionary services ultimately determined the success of missions in Cameroon.
- Economic History
- Health care
- Gender equality
- African agency
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- ISBN: 978-91-87793-87-5
- ISBN: 978-91-87793-86-8
12 September 2022
- Yannick Dupraz (Associate Professor)