- Duff, Alexander
- ( 1806-187 8 )Scottish missionary and educatorA pioneering Church of Scotland missionary to India, Alexander Duff developed the theories that helped shape the Protestant global missionary endeavor throughout the 19th century. Duff was born into a farming family in Moulin, Perthshire, in Scotland. An early experience of nearly drowning left him with a sense that God had a special mission for him.Duff entered St Andrews University in 1821, and founded a missionary society as a student. In 1829, Duff became the first missionary officially appointed by the church's general assembly. He was to superintend an educational facility in Calcutta. He and his wife arrived in India in 1830, but only after experiencing two shipwrecks and the loss of his entire library.The institute was designed to provide a Western education and produce an intellectual elite who would guide India with Western values. Duff was assisted by famed Hindu reformer Ram Mohan Roy, who provided access to the upper levels of Calcutta society, from whom Duff hoped to draw students. Duff's school provided a religious-based education, but he actively engaged both Hindu and atheist intellectuals. Also on Roy's advice, Duff chose to keep instruction in English, which had the effect of integrating students from different Indian linguistic backgrounds. He was one of the first in India to include women in his education program.Duff, never at ease with Calcultta's climate, returned home in 1834 to find that interest in missions had flagged. While traveling across Scotland to rebuild support, he thought through a systematic approach to the missionary enterprise that included the development of indigenous leadership, active engagement with cultural elites, and an understanding of the church as essentially a missionary enterprise.Back in India in 1840, he found that his school was successfully producing a generation of Christian leaders. However, when he and his fellow missionaries took sides with the new, dissident Free Church of Scotland, the established Church of Scotland took over the school's property. Duff and his associates had to start over. He established a new college, also founding additional branches in other locations. Instruction concentrated on literature, science, and the Christian religion. He was among those who drew up a constitution for Calcutta University, and until his return to Scotland in 1851, he led the university's senate.After another interval working to increase support for missionaries back in Scotland and in the United States, he returned to India. While there, he wrote a book criticizing the British government's handling of the 1857 rebellion of Indians against British control. Upon his return to Scotland, Duff became head of the Free Church's foreign missions committee. In 1867, he was appointed to a chair in missions at the New College, Edinburgh. He died on February 12, 1878.Further reading:■ Alexander Duff, India and Indian Missions (Edinburgh: J. Johnstone, 1839)■ The Indian Rebellion: Its Causes and Results. In a Series of Letters. (London: Nisbet, 1857): W. P. Duff, Memorials of Alexander Duff (London: Nisbet, 1890)■ Michael A. Laird, "Alexander Duff, 1806-1878: Western Education as Preparation for the Gospel," in Gerald H. Anderson, et al., eds., Mission Legacies: Biographical Studies of the Modern Missionary Movement (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1998), 271-76■ Thomas Smith, Alexander Duff, D.D., L.D. (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1888).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.