SEM39 - Colonialism and mission in sub-Saharan Africa

SEM39 - Colonialism and mission in sub-Saharan Africa

History of Christianity Seminar
April 22nd - June 16th, 2019
presented by Philippe Denis


Course code: SEM39

Professor: Philippe Denis


During the colonial era, missionaries were presented as heroes of the faith risking their lives to communicate the truth of the gospel to primitive and uncivilised people. This superficial image has been challenged, and rightly so, by the Christians from the South who now surpass in numbers and dynamism those who colonised and evangelised them a century ago. They argue that indigenous agents contributed as much as the western missionaries to evangelisation.
The missionaries have been accused of siding with the colonial powers and of undermining indigenous culture. Using sub-Saharan Africa as an example, the seminar will discuss these assertions. It will look at the manner in which foreign missionaries and indigenous people entered into contact and developed mutual relations over time.

Special attention will be given to the indigenous missionary initiatives, to the indigenous clergy and to the African independent churches. The seminar will conclude by an assessment of the role of the churches in the independence movement in Africa.

Registration is open now. If you are already a student with us, sign up via this link.

Pedagogical procedure 

  • The seminar takes place on Moodle, Domuni's distance learning platform ( Each student logs in independently and works at his/her own pace, according to the established schedule. 
  • Each of the four steps lasts two weeks. 
  • During the first week of the step, each student is asked to write a structured contribution to the seminar, using the texts and the points of focus presented by the professor. The paper has to comply with the following requirements:

- Aprroximately 4,000 characters, including spaces.

- Written in a word-processing software (Word, Open Office, ...)

- The paper must be posted on Moodle via the available forum before the end of the week one.

  • The second week of the step is dedicated to debates and discussions, supervised by the professor.
  • The final mark takes into account the quality of the four contributions and the active participation in the debates. 
  • Each requires minimum 7 hours of personal work.