The Pietist Empire. Millenarian practices and India Mission in the 18th Century


The first permanent Protestant mission in South India, founded in 1706 in the Danish trading post Tranquebar (today Taragamdadi), was sustained by the Danish Royal court, the English “Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK)” and a bourgeois-aristocratic pietistic Lutheran network in the Holy Roman Empire. This network had been established and was being coordinated basically by the Francke Foundation in Halle.

The aim of the project is to work out the genesis and activities of the as yet unexplored pious Hallensian network of supporters between 1730 and 1770, during the directorship of Gotthilf August Francke (1696-1769). The circle this network involved, practically identical to the subscribers of the missionary journal “Hallesche Berichte”, evolved at first from the aristocracy and the functional elites of the Empire, the military nobility, the high officialdom, and the high clergy. During the investigation period, however, this circle altered by integrating wider social groups. A closer network of patrons intensely corresponded with the indefatigable networker Gotthilf August Francke, not only vividly participating in the financial and practical development of the mission, but also taking an active part in crafting it.

The network’s activities touches crucial aspects of the transformation of 18th-century society and demonstrate how social change can take place under the participation of the old elites. The influence of the missionary network shall be examined as an opening of space, applying four dimensions of this category: 1. Eschatological space with the pietistic-chiliastic vision of the “Kingdom of God” as an engine of missionary expansion; 2. Socializing space with an impulse of transgressing three kinds of borders: borders of class, borders of diverging tendencies within Protestantism, borders of tradition; 3. The Space of social and pedagogical trade in donations and projects both in India and in the Holy Empire; 4. The Space of media, with publicity, news and the semi-fictional space of “reported” India.



Funding: HAB
Duration: January 2010 – December 2019
Researcher: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Gleixner
Phone: +49(0)5331-808-246, Fax -277