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Samuel Johnson of Yorubaland, 1846-1901

Identity, Change and the Making of the Mission Agent


Wolfgang-Ulrich Fischer

This study aims to understand how the nineteenth-century African agent of mission appropriated change without losing cultural integrity. Drawing essentially from the contexts that produced the man, from Sierra Leone to the Yoruba country, the study shows Samuel Johnson as embodying the opportunities and ambivalence that progressively accompanied Yoruba contact with Britain in the people’s war-weary century of change. Largely influenced by German missionaries in the British mission environment of Yorubaland, Johnson had confidence in the bright prospect the missionary message held for his people. This propelled him into a struggle to relieve the distressed country from its woes and to preserve the fading memory of its people. In an age of renewed cultural ferment called globalization, could Johnson offer a lesson in how to appropriate change? This is the concern of this volume.


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List of Figures ix Acknowledgements xi List of Abbreviations xv Chapter 1 Looking Back 1 Chapter 2 An Unpromising Beginning 21 Chapter 3 Reorientation 49 Chapter 4 Back to Base 75 Chapter 5 Encountering Other Faiths 109 Chapter 6 Homecoming 149 Chapter 7 Redeeming the Land 183 viii Chapter 8 Racing against Time 229 Chapter 9 Change and Decay 261 Chapter 10 The Making of the Mission Agent 291 Bibliography 325 Index 339

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