With an eye on Protestant Christianity’s great adventure of missionary expansion, K. S. Latourette, noted historian of this expansion, proudly characterized the nineteenth century as a glorious one: “Never had any other set of ideas, religious or secular, been propagated over so wide an area by so many professional agents maintained by the unconstrained donations of so many millions of individuals.… For sheer magnitude it has been without parallel in human history.” In the past 150 years mission work was significantly successful in the Pacific islands, the East Indies, Ceylon, Burma, Korea, coastal China, Japan, India, Madagascar, South and Central Africa. By the end of World War II there were believed to be approximately one million Protestant Christians—half of whom were active Christians—in China.

This wave of predominantly British and American missionaries started from very scattered and humble beginnings. William Carey, a British Baptist shoemaker, and a self-educated teacher and preacher, set the spark in an effective tract in 1792. His efforts led to the formation of a Baptist Missionary Society. By the turn of the century the Church Missionary Society and the London Missionary Society were paralleling his efforts. Similar organizations arose in Scotland, then in America. The missionary society structure was paralleled by Bible Societies for the translation, printing, and distribution of the Christian Scriptures.


British and American Protestant missionaries began work in China at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This work was begun and supported by humble people who had generally been deeply affected by the evangelical revivals which rejuvenated Protestantism through most of the nineteenth century. ...

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