Indigenous Enlightenment


Indigenous Enlightenment

Printing and Education in Evangelical Colonialism, 1790–1850

Stuart D. McKee

544 pages
23 illustrations, index


December 2023


$80.00 Pre-order

About the Book

In Indigenous Enlightenment Stuart D. McKee examines the methodologies, tools, and processes that British and American educators developed to inculcate Indigenous cultures of reading. Protestant expatriates who opened schools within British and United States colonial territories between 1790 and 1850 shared the conviction that a beneficent government should promote the enlightenment of its colonial subjects. It was the aim of evangelical enlightenment to improve Indigenous peoples’ welfare through the processes of Christianization and civilization and to transform accepting individuals into virtuous citizens of the settler-colonial community. Many educators quickly discovered that their teaching efforts languished without the means to publish books in the Indigenous languages of their subject populations. While they could publish primers in English by shipping manuscripts to printers in London or Boston, books for Indigenous readers gained greater accuracy and influence when they stationed a printer within the colony.

With a global perspective traversing Western colonial territories in U.S.-Mexico borderlands, the South Pacific, Madagascar, India, and China, Indigenous Enlightenment illuminates the challenges that British and American educators faced while trying to coerce Indigenous children and adults to learn to read. Indigenous laborers commonly supported the tasks of editing, printing, and dissemination and, in fact, dominated the workforce at most colonial presses from the time printing began. Yet even in places where schools and presses were in synchronous operation, missionaries found that Indigenous people had their own intellectual systems and most did not learn best with Western methods.

Author Bio

Stuart D. McKee is an associate professor of design at the University of San Francisco, where he teaches the history and practice of typography and publication design.


Indigenous Enlightenment makes an important contribution to historiographical knowledge of education, missionary work, and printing from North American to the Southwest Pacific. Stuart McKee’s comparative approach brings into focus the ideals that inspired missionary education and the comparative challenges of transporting the printing technologies that complemented work in school rooms. Orthographic detail is a key feature and strength of this book.”—Gregory D. Smithers, author of The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Chapter 1. The Accession to Western Civility
A Cry for Books and Teachers: The Scheme of Indigenous Schooling
Chapter 2. The Foreign Mission School
Chapter 3. The Central School of Imerina
Chapter 4. Charity Schools and Common Schools
Chapter 5. Pathshalas
Learning the Indigenous Languages: Printing in the South Pacific, 1797–1836
Chapter 6. Ako
Chapter 7. Haapii
An Uneasy Conflation of Cultures: Printing in Bengal, 1775–1835
Chapter 8. Learning to Print
Chapter 9. Printing to Learn
A Civilization Gone Stagnant: Printing for the People of China, 1805–1835
Chapter 10. Under Cover
Chapter 11. Under Contract
“In a Savage Country”: Printing at the United States Borderlands, 1825–1850
Chapter 12. Making News
Chapter 13. Making Do

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