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The East India Company and Religion, 1698-1858


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This wide-ranging book charts how the East India Company grappled with religious issues in its multi-faith empire, putting them into the context of pressures exerted both in Britain and on the subcontinent, from the Company's early mercantile beginnings to the bloody end of its rule in 1858. Religion was at the heart of the East India Company's relationship with India, but the course of its religious policy has rarely been examined in any systematic way.
The free exercise of religion, the policy the Company adopted in its early days in order to safeguard the security of its possessions, was challenged by Evangelicals in the late eighteenth century. They demanded that the Company should grant free access to Christians of all Protestant denominations and an end to 'barbaric' Indian religious practices. This gave rise to an unprecedented petitioning movement in 1813, comparable in strength to that for the abolition of the slave trade the following year. It was an important milestone in British domestic politics. The final years of the Company's rule were dominated by its attempts to withstand Evangelical demands in the face of growing hostility from Indians. In the end it pleased no one, and its rule came to a gory and ignominious end.
In this compelling account, Penny Carson examines the twists and turns of the East India Company's policy on religious issues. The story of how the Company dealt with the fact that it was a Christian Company, trying to be equitable to the different faiths it found in India, has resonances for Britain today as it attempts to accommodate the religions of all its peoples within the Christian heritage and structure of the state.

Penelope Carson is an independent scholar with a doctorate from King's College, London.


[A]n impressive range of archival sources . . . about English religious politics of the "sun never sets on the British Empire" school. ANGLICAN & EPISCOPAL HISTORY

Carson has delivered a well-written and thoroughly researched monograph that will be a welcome addition to upper-division and graduate courses on British India . . . [and] to imperial and religious studies as well. Her work is the first of its kind to convey precisely why and how the Company implemented its religious policies, all within the context of a bitter debate between the Established Church and "evangelicalism." THE HISTORIAN

[A] superbly researched study [that] provides a valuable empirical foundation for understanding the complex forces that underlay Company policy, Evangelical activism, and ideology in British India. CANADIAN JOURNAL OF HISTORY

[A] new and deftly researched volume. ASIAN AFFAIRS

A well-written narrative, both readable and informative. H-NET REVIEWS


For the more specialist student of missiology and imperial history, its drawing on such precise historical material will make it an invaluable resource. CHURCH TIMES


First Published: 20 Sep 2012
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843837329
Pages: 291
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press

Details updated on 19 Mar 2016


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  A Christian Company?
  • 3  The East India Company, Britain and India: 1770-1790
  • 4  The 1790s: A Time of Crisis
  • 5  The Pillar of Fire Moves Foreward: The Advent of British Missionaries, 1793-1806
  • 6  The Wisdom of the Serpent and the Innocence of the Dove: The Vellore Mutiny and The Pamphlet War, 1806-1808
  • 7  Troubled Years, 1807-1812
  • 8  Battle Lines Drawn: Missions, Dissent and the Establishment
  • 9  The 1813 Renewal of the Company's Charter: The Religious Public Takes on the Company
  • 10  A Turbulent Frontier: The Company and Religion, 1814-1828
  • 11  A New Dawn? The Era of Lord William Bentinck, 1828-1835
  • 12  Between Scylla and Charibdis, 1836-1858
  • 13  Conclusion and Epilogue: Strangers in the Land

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