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Kirsten Rüther
The Power Beyond
Mission Strategies, African Conversion and the Development of a Christian Culture in the Transvaal
Reihe: Studien zur Afrikanischen Geschichte
Bd. 26, 2001, 344 S., 40.90 EUR, 40.90 CHF, br., ISBN 3-8258-4773-X

During the nineteenth century pietistic missionaries from the Hermannsburg and Berlin Mission Societies established more than fifty mission stations among the Sotho and the Tswana throughout the Transvaal. These mission stations became centres of social and religious interaction. On the mission stations Christianity and the world views compatible with it gradually took root among a growing number of converts while, at the same time, missionaries' families adapted to settler society.

For most of the period under review, formal conversions to Christianity remained small in number, yet Christian values and institutions became prevalent features among African societies long before Christianity emerged as a majority belief in its new surroundings. Missionary evangelical strategies and African conversions to Christianity were tested in the context of South African colonial politics and economic transformations. While in the Transvaal Christianity offered little scope for explicit political opposition, it opened up major fields of cultural innovation which, in due time, became the basis for new articulations of African social aspirations.

This study explores a mine of unpublished information Hermannsburg and Berlin mission archives provide. It attempts to prove that the detail we can build on Africans' experiences with Christianity is considerable if we carefully browse the riches of the mission archives.

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