Welsh missionaries and British imperialism

The Empire of Clouds in north-east India

By Andrew May

Welsh missionaries and British imperialism


  • Paperback

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8035-7
  • Pages: 312
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £75.00
  • Published Date: November 2012
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, History, Indian sub-continent, Colonialism & imperialism, Asian history, HISTORY / Asia / India & South Asia
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


In 1841, the Welsh sent their first missionary, Thomas Jones, to evangelise the tribal peoples of the Khasi Hills of north-east India. This book follows Jones from rural Wales to Cherrapunji, the wettest place on earth and now one of the most Christianised parts of India. As colonised colonisers, the Welsh were to have a profound impact on the culture and beliefs of the Khasis. The book also foregrounds broader political, scientific, racial and military ideologies that mobilised the Khasi Hills into an interconnected network of imperial control. Its themes are universal: crises of authority, the loneliness of geographical isolation, sexual scandal, greed and exploitation, personal and institutional dogma, individual and group morality. Written by a direct descendant of Thomas Jones, it makes a significant contribution in orienting the scholarship of imperialism to a much-neglected corner of India, and will appeal to students of the British imperial experience more broadly.


'This book is thus an important part of the history of both missions and empire. It is very carefully put together, with complexity and nuance-as well as a beautiful writing style that made it a pleasure to read.'

Emily Manktelow, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 2013

'This highly-engaging, well-researched and theoretically-interesting history of mission and empire in a historiographically neglected corner of the British Empire uses the stories of intriguing individuals to flesh out, as well as to question, standard received notions of the interplay between the religious and imperial incursions of the British into Asian societies...May has provided us with a richly detailed and highly-persuasive history, and a thoughtful interrogation of that history, of one phase in the expansion of British religion and empire. For this we are deeply in his debt.'
Arun W. Jones, Emory University, Atlanta, 2015

'Andrew J. May's Welsh missionaries and British imperialism succeeds in terms of originality of topic, excellent methodology, readability of text, and richness of sources. Researchers and university students of every level will be able to use this monograph to develop a thorough idea of missionary history and colonial experience. Furthermore, his microhistory is both captivating and illuminating, engaging with broader imperial ideas of race, religion, and space. May's work deepens our understanding of British colonial experience in 19th-century northeast India.'
Professor Andrew J. Avery, Reviews in History, July 2016


Andrew J. May is Associate Professor of History in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne


General editor's introduction
Part I Preparations
1. Some kind of preacher
2. Voyaging: two places at once
3. Networks and precursors
Part II The flag on the mountain
4. Drawing the frontier
5. The tranquillity of the borders
6. The richest collections
7. Creatures of a day: Christian soldiers
Part III The work on the Hills
8. The banner of the cross
9. Cultural transactions: the letter and the gift
10. Intimacy and transgression
Part IV The borderlands of law and belief
11. The pen and the sabre
12. The refulgent cross and the heathen carnival
13. The country is ours

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