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Juniata History Professor Gives Talk on Evangelical Missionaries and Their Role in British Empire

(Posted November 5, 2012)

Alison Fletcher, associate professor of history

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Some of the best sources of information about the far-flung reaches of the British Empire were evangelical missionaries who traveled throughout the world among English colonies to convert residents of the colonies. Alison Fletcher, associate professor of history at Juniata College, will tell the story of one of the most well-known missionaries of the time in a lecture at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 14 in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The talk is one of a series of Bookend Lectures held once a month throughout the academic year by Juniata faculty.

Fletcher will talk on "Planting Little Colonies in the South Seas: The Making of a Missionary Empire," with her student researcher, Moira Mackay, a senior from Beaverton, Ore. Fletcher and Mackay traveled to London in summer 2012, using a research grant funded by the late David Goodman, a former member of Juniata's board of trustees, to research John Williams, one of the most well known of the British missionaries.

Williams spent 25 years in the South Pacific working as a missionary for the London Missionary Society. Fletcher will explain how Williams and other missionaries became well known in Britain and served as credible sources of information for British policy makers and merchants.

After Williams' death, British Sunday School children donated or raised money to purchase a ship called "John Williams" for missionary work in the Pacific. It was the first of seven ships to bear his name. The last "John Williams" ship was decommissioned in 1968.

Fletcher will talk on "Planting Little Colonies in the South Seas: The Making of a Missionary Empire," with her student researcher, Moira Mackay, a senior from Beaverton, Ore.

Fletcher joined the Juniata College faculty in 2007 as an assistant professor of history. She previously worked at as assistant professor of history at Kent State University from 2003 to 2007.

Fletcher, who received the Gibbel Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2011, specializes in European history and has taught a variety of courses, including The Great War, Crimes Against Humanity, the history of women in Britain and The British Empire.

Fletcher is currently working on a book, "Faith in Empire: The London Missionary Society and the Building of British Colonial Modernity," which details how British evangelical missionaries functioned as part of the British empire in southern Africa and Madagascar, as well as how those returning missionaries and their converts became independent influences on colonial policy.

She earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1992 from Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pa. She went on to earn a master's degree in history in 1995 and a doctorate in history in 2003, both from The Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Md.

She has published several articles in professional journals, including Minerva: Journal on Women and War, and the Journal of Religious History.

She started her teaching career as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, working as a teaching assistant from 1994 to 1995. She held a series of jobs as an instructor in history from 1997 to 2003 at the University of Pennsylvania (1997, 2001-2003), St, Joseph's University (1997-1998), Cedar Crest College (1998), and Bryn Mawr College (2000).

Fletcher received the 2006 Graduate Applause Teaching Award from Kent State and was named a Teaching Scholar in 2004. In 1992 she received the Helen Taft Manning History Prize.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.