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Childen in China celebrating the Norwegian national day. (© Misjonsarkivet, Misjonshøgskolen, Stavanger)

Five different Norwegian mission-organisations took up missionary work in China between 1889 and 1902. A rapid expansion soon transformed into a missionary stronghold; China was to become the single-most important mission field for Norwegian missionaries during the first half of the twentieth century. The religious differences between the organisations, together with the general development of Norwegian Christianity towards the turn of the twentieth century, suggest an increasing organisational differentiation alongside denominational lines. However, missionaries' educational background, and the fact that some missionaries worked in more than one missionary society at different points in their careers, suggests a much more dynamic and transgressional flow of ideas and people than what is generally acknowledged.

Current research underlines how the Protestant mission movement was explicitly transnational in its outlook and ideology. For instance, evangelical texts were intended to speak to all Protestants and would-be Protestants across the world. The extent to which missions constituted transnational networks of ideas, people and money becomes evident when tracing personal and institutional networks of individuals and mission organisations.

The research on missionaries will evolve around two main issues:

  1. Norwegian Missions in China - Transnational and Local Networks, 1890–1937. This project will trace the transnational missionary network of the first Norwegian missionaries from the three major Norwegian mission organisations in China in the period 1890–1937: The Norwegian Missionary Society (NMS), The Norwegian Lutheran China-Mission-Association (NLCM) and the Norwegian China-Mission (NCM).The Norwegian missions in China were part of larger, complex networks with both local and global reach. Transnational links connected them to missionary organisations in for example Sweden, the USA and the UK. Particular emphasis is put upon the individual missionaries and their local and global networks, including personal relationships and family connections. Within the Chinese context, heed is paid the crucial importance local Christians had for the transmission of the Christian message locally. As for local networks within Norway, the project will try to trace the flow of money in order to investigate direct and/or indirect links between commercial interests in China and the support of the Norwegian China missions.


  2. Gender, Mission and Welfare in China Women constituted a majority in the mission movements. Women were also a central object of mission ideology, rhetoric and practical work. Many female missionaries saw it as their main priority to include non-Christian women in what they perceived as the collective of Christian, liberated women. This solidarity with non-Christian women was based on the Evangelical belief in all women’s right to salvation and the corresponding spiritual equality of men and women. The transnational mission movement opened a women’s sphere in public space. Women’s participation in the mission movement, which was considerable, is an important issue for this project. Of particular concern is the study of woman participation in the formation of a global consciousness, and women’s pioneering contribution to the establishment of organisational structures and working methods within international education. Through the study of woman participation in the Lutheran mission to China, we aim to shed light on women’s role in the formation of civil society, including welfare and education, and analyse gender transformations generated through this process.