Beginning in the late 1880s, a small stream of Canadian and American missionaries made their permanent home in Sichuan Provence in West China. Inspired by Social Gospel theologians, their numbers had swelled to hundreds by the 1930s, then dwindled during WWII and finally ceased in 1951 when they were forced to leave under the Communist regime. Although these missionary men and women left their homes and families to “evangelize the world in one generation,” once in China a major portion of them were more focused on education than they were on evangelism. Their teaching fine arts, humanities and sciences in middle schools and universities was motivated by the premises that Christianity formed the foundation of a universal democratic society, and that liberal arts and science education was the route to effective Christian leadership. Their social engineering experiment provides a unique opportunity to analyze processes of rapid social and cultural change in both East and West.
Whereas medical missionaries have been the focus of many studies in recent decades, very little attention has been paid to educational missionaries. Moreover, most studies focus on specific individuals, denominations, or institutions, providing only anecdotal evidence and case studies. The IMWCM digital repository will compile within a collaborative online environment the original letters and photographs of dozens of educational missionaries, as well as their publications in two journals heretofore unavailable in the Americas. This repository’s text and multimedia analysis tools will enable the emergence of new holistic understandings of educational missionaries, and their engagements with Chinese colleagues and adversaries, within an international and multi-denominational micro-culture that spread throughout China and the world. These extensive resources combined with robust analysis tools will facilitate new insights into issues of imperialism and modernization that bear significantly on prospects for effective democracies and global cooperation today.