Annual Lecture Utrecht Center for Early Modern Studies

Alec Ryrie: ‘The Dangerous Allure of Printing to Early Modern Global Protestant Mission’ 

Every year, the Utrecht Centre for Early Modern Studies organises a lecture by an internationally acclaimed scholar. The lecture is held in English and it is aimed at a broad audience. 

The UCEMS Annual Lecture 2022 will be delivered by prof. dr. Alec Ryrie (Durham University) and is entitled ‘The Dangerous Allure of Printing to Early Modern Global Protestant Mission’. The lecture will take place on 28 June 2022, 20:00h, in the University Hall in Utrecht. 

Admission is free, but registration is manadatory. Please send an email to before 17 June.

Abstract: Protestants who engaged in cross-cultural conversionary efforts in the 17th and early 18th centuries understood their project through the experience of the European Reformation. As well as informing their church-building strategies, this perspective also convinced them that vernacular printing, especially of Biblical translations, would be decisive in spreading their gospel, and considerable resource was ploughed into this effort. These efforts drew on the experience of ‘missionary’ projects in Ireland and northern Scandinavia, and ultimately on Protestant preconceptions about the nature of religious change and the power of the Word. This paper will survey some of these attempts to take Protestant print to various contexts in the Americas and Asia, and argue that this effort proved misconceived and ineffective in those contexts, significantly undermining early Protestant missionary work: a failure based both on a misreading of European experience and on deeper theological framing of the entire missionary enterprise.