Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Benjamin Grob-Fitzgibbon

Committee Member

Laurence Hare

Second Committee Member

Joel Gordon


Philosophy, religion and theology, Social sciences, British empire, Decolonization, Kenya, Missionaries


Kenya was an unusual case within the larger narrative of decolonization in the British Empire. The presence of white settlers, the relative newness of the colony, and the particular way in which the British pursued the civilizing mission all combined to make the end of empire particularly violent for all parties involved. Independence in Kenya was precipitated by a bloody civil war, known as Mau Mau, and the imposition of martial law by the government for almost a decade. In the midst of this chaos, the Church of England’s missionary body, the Church Missionary Society worked to protect their converts while also proving to colonial authorities that they were a necessary part of the civilizing mission. This dissertation analyzes the methods and motivations of the CMS in the midst of civil war and rehabilitation efforts in Kenya, but it also seeks to place mission activities within a larger context of twentieth century empire. Mission activities did not emerge from the ether in 1952 after the declaration of Emergency in Kenya. Rather their work began with the declaration of war in 1914, as Europe fell into the Great War. As such, CMS activities in Kenya must be examined through the long lens of empire, from 1914 to 1963. Missionary reaction to colonial policies throughout the time period are examined in hopes of better understanding the long history of decolonization. The CMS was chosen for this project because they provide special insight into the ways in which empire was formed and destroyed in the twentieth century. This is in due in part to ways in which they created their identity as the state missional body of the British Empire. If the Church of England was the official church of the English state, then so too was the CMS the official religious organization of empire. By examining how the self-identified state missional body of empire handled, or rather mishandled decolonization, we can begin to open new paths of analysis into the larger patterns and pictures for the end of empire.