- Pietistische Konkurrenz und Naturgeschichte: Die Südasienmission der Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine und die Dänisch-Englisch-Hallesche Mission (1755–1802) by Thomas Ruhland
The mission of the Moravian Church in Tranquebar on the east coast of India was established in 1759 under the protection of the kingdom of Denmark, despite the protests of the Pietists from Halle, who had already worked in this Danish colony during the first half of the century. The conflict between the Moravian Church from Herrnhut and the Pietists from Halle lies at the center of this monograph by Thomas Ruhland. The book, based on a dissertation submitted at the University of Kassel in 2015, is an excellent and profound study of Protestant missions on the Indian subcontinent in the eighteenth century. Due to very detailed reconstructions of the debates and decision-making processes, the book addresses foremost specialists and historians of the era. However, its pleasant and fluent narration renders it accessible to a broader audience as well. What makes the narrative of the book so vivid and the argumentation so convincing is the large number of handwritten sources, mainly from Herrnhut (Unitätsarchiv), Halle (Archiv der Franckeschen Stiftungen), and Copenhagen (Rigsarkivet), consulted and often quoted by the author.
After the opulent preface of thirty pages, the author masterfully introduces the reader to the world of the Pietists' network at the court of Frederick V of Denmark (reign 1746–66). Despite the absolutist king's sympathy for the Pietists from Halle (represented in Copenhagen by Adam Gottlob von Moltke), who strongly opposed the mission of the Moravians, the latter were granted the king's privilege to settle on the islands of Nicobar in 1759. That decision and subsequent settlement opened a long conflict between Halle and Herrnhut. According to the Pietists' explanation, the community from Herrnhut and its aggressive expansion in the colony bore the responsibility for the conflict. Thanks to perspicuous analysis of handwritten [End Page 117] sources from various archives, Ruhland has managed to challenge that traditional interpretation. He demonstrates that the conflict did not occur in the colony but mainly reflected the pre-existing struggles between Gotthilf August Francke and Nicolaus Zinzendorf. According to Ruhland, Gotthilf Francke, son of August Hermann Francke, was determined to stop or at least to slow down the development of the Moravian mission. In order to achieve his goal, he controlled the flow of information and used the Pietists' network (184–86). He acted "manipulatively" (160) as "an unscrupulous politician" ("skrupellose[r] Machtpolitiker," 386). Contrary to the assumptions and suppositions of Francke, everyday life in the mission was more strongly shaped by a desire for peaceful coexistence. Both the Europeans' need for conflict and the missionaries' need for compromise are demonstrated by the case of the alleged conversion of Rajanayakkan (146–67). The Pietists had already converted the native inhabitant when he contacted the Moravians, which Francke (according to Ruhland, against the facts) depicted as an attempt of reconversion.
The rivalry between Halle und Herrnhut took place at the same time as the new natural sciences were emerging, which Ruhland convincingly describes in the second part of his monograph. The success of James Cook's expedition and a new taxonomy set up by Carl Linnaeus, as well as The History of Greenland by David Cranz published in German in 1765, triggered in the milieu of the Pietists a new appreciation for natural science. Gotthilf Francke was determined to copy the success of Cranz, and he explicitly demanded the missionaries send exotic objects from Asia (227–30). However, both missions faced difficulties in catering to the new opportunities science afforded. On the one hand, the missionaries from Halle, whose number sank to three in 1767, suffered under financial cuts and struggled organizationally. The author vividly depicts these new challenges with an example of the aspirations of a doctor, Johann Gerhard König, a student of Carl Linnaeus. The new physician was more concerned with natural...