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History of Christianity in India: Tamilnadu in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, vol. 4, pt. 2.

This is the third book in the Church History Association of India's (CHAI) multivolume history of Christianity in India and the first one dealing with the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. CHAI's guidelines call for a history that is ecumenical in scope and treats Christianity as part of the sociocultural history of the Indian people. These pose a serious challenge, especially since the southern state of Tamilnadu has a large and diverse Christian population with a long history. Dr. Hugald Grafe, a missionary in India 1961-75 and currently a secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission of Lower Saxony, has risen to this challenge very well.

The chapters which are arranged topically, deal with the context, the churches, the Christian people, encounters with other faiths, induction of social change, involvement in political developments, interaction with Tamil culture, and a brief conclusion touching on the Tamil Christian diaspora. These subjects cover important aspects of Tamil Christian life and influence only touched upon by previous historians. For example, the chapter on the Christian people deals both with group conflicts (including caste conflicts) among Christians and with community cohesiveness. The chapter on social change has important sections on the uplift of women and of the depressed classes (Dalits).

The great strengths of this history are its originality, comprehensiveness, and wealth of detail. This reader missed having concluding sections to each chapter so that trends and their ramifications could be more readily appreciated. Also a purely topical division over a two-century time span becomes problematic. Its usefulness is seen in Grafe's superb chapter on Tamil culture; its weaknesses come out elsewhere where the religious, social, and political become easily separated in the reader's mind, when in historical reality they were closely integrated.

The book is available from the Dharmaram Book Centre, Bangalore 560029, India.

John C. B. Webster, a missionary in India 1960-81, was professor of the history of Christianity at United Theological College, Bangalore, 1977-81. He is currently pastor of Crossroads Presbyterian Church, Waterford, Connecticut.
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Author:Webster, John C.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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