Date: Thu, 11 Jan 1996 21:56:45 -0500
Sender: H-NET List for African History <>
From: Harold Marcus <>
Subject: Re: Review: Isichei, History of Christianity in Africa To: Multiple recipients of list H-AFRICA <>

Date: Thu, 11 Jan 1996
From: Thomas Spear <>

Recent histories of Christianity in Africa

Thomas Speer's contribution to a discussion on the H-Africa list, 11 January 1996

Re David Robinson's review, Elizabeth Isichei's History of Christianity in Africa is indeed welcome, but it is not the only recent history of African Christianity. Adrian Hastings' The Church in Africa, 1450-1950 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994) is a magisterial study (706 pp), organized chronologically and thematically, and focused on the roles of African catechists in the making of the African church. It is much more comprehensive than Isichei's survey, especially when supplemented with his A History of African Christianity, 1950-75 (Cambridge, 1979), but not as useful as a text consequently. The cloth edition is $80, but I understand a paperback is on the way.

More limited, but valuable, approaches include Lamin Saneh, West African Christianity: The Religious Impact ((Maryknoll: Orbis, 1983); Richard Gray, Black Christians and White Missionaries (New Haven: Yale, 1990); David Chidester, Religions of South Africa (New York: Routledge, 1992); and H.B. Hansen & M. Twaddle (eds.), Religion and Politics in East Africa (Athens: Ohio, 1995). Sanneh's Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1993) is an important reconceptualization of the spread of Christianity historically, stressing its translatability and radical cultural pluralism.

All in all, then, we are seeing a resurgence of studies of African Christianity, most focused much more on African agency, interpretation, and appropriation of the faith that earlier studies.