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Sowing the Word: The Cultural Impact of the British and Foreign Bible Society 1804-2004
Stephen Batalden, Kathleen Cann, John Dean
Publication Date
November 2004


In March 2004 a group of thirty historians who were fascinated by the work of the British and Foreign Bible Society met in London to share their researches, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Society (now part of the United Bible Societies). A common thread to their papers was the indelible effect the Society’s work has had around the world, not only in bringing the Bible to people of many countries in their own language but also in helping to create many national identities and cultures. The Bible was often the first printed book in a language and thus the primer for those learning to read. It had an enormous influence on education, the development of written languages, and the outlook of leaders and ordinary people alike throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. In the nineteen papers of this volume, focusing on Britain, West Africa, East Asia, Russia, Europe, and North America, readers will find a wealth of absorbing detail, such as the stories of those who translated the Bible into the languages of China and Russia, into the native languages of nineteenth-century Canada, and into many other languages of the world or the intriguing tales of those who distributed Bibles, including the many women, such as the Bible Women, who found a freedom they otherwise lacked in organizing networks for circulating the Scriptures. Not forgotten either are those colorful characters, such as the maverick George Borrow in Spain, who took enormous risks for the Society in selling Bibles in countries where a vernacular Bible was not welcomed by the authorities.

Stephen Batalden is a historian and director of the Russian and East European Studies Center at Arizona State University. Kathleen Cann is the former BFBS archivist responsible for the professional organization and description of the collection. John Dean is a former general secretary of the BFBS and United Bible Societies World Service Officer.

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