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Christian Missionaries and Social Protection in Colonial Africa

25 June 2021

Bastian Becker and Carina Schmitt are presenting on "Christian Missionaries and Social Protection in Colonial Africa" at the 11th Annual Meeting of the European Political Science Association, taking place online. They are part of the panel "Historical Origins of Contemporary Politics 1".


Christian missionaries were often the first to provide social protection to local populations in colonies. Hoping to attract new converts, missionaries frequently build schools and operated medical stations. Colonial administrations often welcomed and supported these activities as they had to balance their strained budgets. In this paper, we argue that administrations did not treat all missionaries equally, generally preferring to cooperate with missionaries from their own metropole. To support our argument we use new historical data from the interwar period in Africa and demonstrate that aligned missions achieved better educational and health outputs than their non-aligned counterparts. We explore potential channels underlying this dynamic, including financial support to missions as well as the granting of access to more favorable locations. Our findings have important implications for the existing scholarship which so far has focussed on confessional differences rather than in national origins. Furthermore, most earlier studies only show effects on long-term outcomes, while our new data allows us to focus on the early provision of social protection and thus to close an important link in the causal chain.

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