Music and Mission: A Case Study of the Anglican-Xhosa Missions of the Eastern Cape, 1854-1880

  • Philip T Burnett

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The aim of this thesis is to examine the music and soundscape of the Anglican-Xhosa missions established in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa in the mid-nineteenth century. The objective is to explore the ways in which music and sounds – a daily part of life on these missions – shaped people’s behaviours, their interactions, and their beliefs, both religious and cultural. Focussing on the thirty-year period following the establishment of the Anglican-Xhosa missions in 1854 I investigate how hybrid musical forms arose from the diverse contributions made to the soundscape by British missionaries and indigenous people, both converted and unconverted. The underlying theme of my argument is the role of the acoustic and semantic reforming of music and sounds in shaping the engagement and exchanges between missionaries and indigenous peoples in the nineteenth century.

The evidence is drawn from missionary reports and journals, and print resources such as periodicals, pamphlets, hymnbooks, histories and ethnographies. From these I identify the main elements of the mission soundscape, the genres and forms of music making, and the music makers themselves. Chapter 1 examines the backgrounds of Anglican missionaries and where music sat in their social, cultural and religious frameworks. Chapter 2 focusses on the soundscape and the indigenous musical cultures of the Eastern Cape before 1854. Chapter 3 then looks at the acoustic and semantic shaping of the mission soundscape through three case studies of musical instruments, bells and processions. Chapter 4 focusses on music in missionary education and the function of musical literacy. The final two chapters focus on the adaptation and translation of hymns and the implications of these processes. This thesis contributes to our understanding of British missionary activity overseas in the nineteenth century and the factors that contributed towards its complex legacies, both in the past and in the present.
Date of Award23 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorRobert Bickers (Supervisor) & Emma C Hornby (Supervisor)

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