Lives and Times of the Protestant Christian Elite in Madras at the turn of the Nineteenth Century


By the middle of the nineteenth century, British influence in India moved from trade to political dominion, and Madras (present day Chennai), the South Indian port city metamorphosed into the political, commercial, and cultural capital of South India. Western education, administrative institutions, and the growth of the market economy under British colonialism left an indelible impact on traditional social structures, institutions, and religious beliefs.
The modernizing colonial system facilitated conditions for the rise of new groups of indigenous elites.

Christian missions gained remarkable ground in the Madras Presidency during the period (1850-1900). An elite group of Protestant Christians – made up of lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, were vocal in articulating the many issues that affected the Christian community, especially in the face of acrimonious right-wing opposition to missionary activities and the perception of Christianity as an enterprise of British domination and imperialism. They negotiated the spiritual and the secular, displayed enthusiasm in evangelization, formed an independent church and support groups, and launched welfare schemes, all while dauntingly facing the onslaught of rising communal overtones.

Y. Vincent Kumaradoss & Elizabeth Susan Alexander.  Y.V. Kumaradoss taught medieval and modern Indian History at Madras Christian College. E.S. Alexander is an independent researcher and author. This article first appeared in the Church History Association of India, (CHAI) publication, India's Christian Heritage, 2011 (114-128), and is reproduced with permission.