Church of Scotland periodicals and the shaping of Scottish opinion regarding South African apartheid and the Central African Federation, c. 1912–c. 1965
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
Cannon, Jeffrey Grant
Using textual and visual material from Scottish Christian periodicals, this thesis examines the role of Christian humanitarianism in influencing Scottish public opinion relative to empire and race between c. 1912 and c. 1965. It focuses on the mediation of the Scottish Christian response to South African racial policy and implementation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The thesis demonstrates that an ambiguous mix of ideologies existed within the Scottish churches and argues that the editor of the Church of Scotland’s Life and Work magazine from 1945 to 1965, Rev. J. W. Stevenson, drew from a tradition of Christian humanitarianism in Scottish Christian periodicals in allying the magazine with the church’s liberal-humanitarian wing to oppose apartheid and the Federation. It further argues that despite – or perhaps because of – such alignment, Stevenson and his predecessors demonstrated a persistent paternalism and perpetuated racially inflected tropes regarding Africa and Africans. The tensions between the egalitarian ideals of Christian humanitarianism and this residual paternalism are explored through the treatment of Africa and Africans in church periodicals. Previous studies of Scottish press coverage of these issues focus on secular periodicals and largely ignore the official organs of the national church. Paying particular attention to the use of images addresses another gap in the literature, addressing photographic portrayals of Africans in Christian literature after the First World War. Chapter one examines the formation of the Scottish image of Africa and a textual and visual iconography of Christian humanitarianism. Chapter two considers the debates over the social witness of the Scottish churches and the development of domestic and international networks devoted to a socially conscious theology of the Kingdom of God that transcended national boundaries and governed international and imperial relationships. Chapter three then examines the tensions between the egalitarian ideals of Christian humanitarianism and the influence of the racial consciousness of the black Atlantic in the person of Stevenson’s predecessor W. P. Livingstone. It considers his efforts to infuse the tradition of socially conscious domestic and international concern found in earlier Scottish Christian periodicals back into Life and Work following the union of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland in 1929. Chapter four explores the same tensions in Life and Work’s treatment of South African racial policy under Stevenson’s editorship in light of the General Assembly’s official condemnation of apartheid. Chapter five shows how the debate over the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland opened up ideological fissures in the Kirk, blocking adoption of an official position by the General Assembly, and how Stevenson allied Life and Work with the liberal-humanitarians in opposition to the Federation. Acknowledging internal ideological tensions and unrealised ideals apparent in the ongoing use of racially inflected tropes, the thesis demonstrates that Christian photography was used as a critique of the racial attitudes underlying empire and settler colonialism. It deepens understanding of the Church of Scotland’s relationship with the British Empire and complicates narratives of the Kirk as unambiguously opposed to British colonialism in the twentieth century.