Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba
Now in Paperback!

Religious Encounter and the Making of the Yoruba

J. D. Y. Peel
Distribution: World
Publication date: 1/31/2003
Format: paper 440 pages, 9 b&w photos, 2 figures, 4 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-21588-8
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Winner of the 2001 Herskovits Award
Winner of the 2001 Amaury Talbot Prize
“Peel is by training an anthropologist, but one possessed of an acute historical sensibility. Indeed, this magnificent book achieves a degree of analytical verve rare in either discipline.” —History Today

“[T]his is scholarship of the highest quality. . . . Peel lifts the Yoruba past to a dimension of comparative seriousness that no one else has managed. . . . The book teems with ideas . . . about big and compelling matters of very wide interest.” —T. C. McCaskie

In this magisterial book, J. D. Y. Peel contends that it is through their encounter with Christian missions in the mid-19th century that the Yoruba came to know themselves as a distinctive people. Peel’s detailed study of the encounter is based on the rich archives of the Anglican Church Missionary Society, which contain the journals written by the African agents of mission, who, as the first generation of literate Yoruba, played a key role in shaping modern Yoruba consciousness. This distinguished book pays special attention to the experiences of ordinary men and women and shows how the process of Christian conversion transformed Christianity into something more deeply Yoruba.


"For three decades Peel has published on the Yoruba—Aladura: A Religious Movement among the Yoruba (1968) has become an anthropological classic. Now Peel sets an anthropological aim (studying the impact of the Church Missionary Society on a group of Africans who became the Yoruba) but takes form and mode from history (employing events and missionary journals as sources). Early missionaries in the later 19th century included Europeans and ex-slave returnees from Sierra Leone; these men were the quintessential cultural middlemen, adapting Christianity and transforming Yoruba identity in a single seamless process. This 11-chapter book presents a useful discussion of narratives of religion and of empire, and Peel makes a very important point: early missionaries saw heathenism as an absence or vacuum, rather than as something with durability, style, and an ethos of its own. Further chapters are titled Yorubaland at War, Missionary Power, Preaching the Word, Paths to Conversion, and The Making of the Yoruba. In Engaging with Islam, Peel explains that Islam and Christianity were in competition and both religions had to .. offer a means to individual and collective empowerment and they had to offer attractive, viable identities. Well documented with valuable notes and references-cited section. General readers; all academic levels." —B. M. du Toit, emeritus, University of Florida , Choice , November 2001

". . . a magnificent excursion into Yoruba religious history of the nineteenth century." —
International Journal of African Historical Studies

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Table of Contents

Preliminary :

1. Narratives of Religion and of Empire
2. Yorubaland at War
3. Living in an Age of Confusion
4. Making Country Fashion
5. The Mission and the Powers
6. Preaching the Word
7. Engaging with Islam
8. The Path to Conversion
9. Leaf Becomes Soap
10. The Making of the Yoruba
11. Looking Back
Sources and References