"Truth of any kind is food for the soul."

The Rev. Jesse Caswell, 1841

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"New" Content at herbswanson.com

In the last few days, I have added two additional items to herbswanson.com both of which date from 2004, the last year that I was a full-time researcher in Thai church history.  The first item is an edited and slightly revised version of an essay entitled, "Laying the Foundations: Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes towards Thai Buddhism. It describes the ideological/theological sources of Presbyterian missionary attitudes towards Buddhism as well as changes that took place in their attitudes over time.  Most notable, I think, is the impact the missionaries' negative attitudes about Catholicism had on their attitudes concerning Buddhism.  I had just finished this essay not long before returning to the U.S. for a research project that has never been completed.

The second item is an article I submitted to the International Bulletin of Missionary Research entitled, Said’s Orientalism and the Study of Christian Missions, which was published in July 2004 issue of that journal.  While it is not about Thai church history directly, this article reflects my ongoing interest in the work of Edward Said in particular and the concept of "orientalism" more generally.

Both items are PDFs.  Both, in a sense, are also extensions of my master's thesis and doctoral dissertation and reflect my foundational thesis that Presbyterian missionary behavior in Siam from 1840 to roughly 1920 makes a great deal of sense if we understand their intellectual heritage and the attitudes that were a consequence of that heritage—and much less sense otherwise.  More largely, they also grow out of my contention that one cannot understand the Christian experience in Siam/Thailand down to the present apart from an understanding of the two great streams out of which it flows, Asian-Buddishm and Western-Christian-ism.

The missionary attitudes essay is also linked to the bibliography of English-language resources on herbswanson.com, and the Said article is linked to the Orientalism bibliography on the website, which bibliography also dates back to 2004.  There also links to both on the home page.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Surviving Titanic: the Caldwell Family's Story

The Titanic
The study of Thai church history takes its practitioners into sometimes unexpected places. "Surfing the Web" for entries for my Bibliography of materials related to Christianity in Thailand, I recently came across a citation that was very much unexpected.  It is a book by Dr. Julie Hedgepeth Williams entitled, A Rare Titanic Family: The Caldwells Story of Survival (NewSouth Books, 2012), which tells the story of Albert and Sylvia Caldwell and their infant daughter.  The Caldwells were appointed by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. to serve as missionaries in Bangkok.  They arrived in 1909 where they took up their duties at the Bangkok Christian High School (BCC today).  Sylvia, however, soon became ill, and they resigned from the Siam Mission at the end of 1911.  The Caldwells and their infant daughter travelled home via Europe and booked passage on the Titanic for their Atlantic crossing.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

The publisher has made available a podcast of an interview done with Albert in the early 1970s.  It is 22 minutes long and provides fascinating insights into the sinking of the Titanic.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"A Missionary in Siam" - A Digital Exhibition

The Five Colleges of Ohio Digital Exhibitions website is currently hosting an exhibit by Genevieve Senechal of Oberlin College entitled, "A Missionary in Siam."  The subject of the exhibit is the life and word of the Rev. Dr. Dan Beach Bradley, the premier Protestant missionary in Siam in the nineteenth century.  The exhibit includes photographs, including the unique family portrait on the life (taken in 1864 and including Rev. Daniel McGilvary), documents, historical sketches, and historical notes not only on Bradley but also on the nation of Siam during his lifetime.
The exhibit provides a good introduction to Bradley, to Protestant missions in Siam in his time, and to Siam generally in that era.  It is worth spending a little time.