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The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic

3.21 of 5 stars 3.21  ·  rating details  ·  90 ratings  ·  22 reviews
The astonishing story of aunique missionary project—and the America it embodied—from award-winning historian John Demos.

Near the start of the nineteenth century, as the newly established United States looked outward toward the wider world, a group ofeminent Protestant ministers formed agrand schemeforgathering the rest of mankindinto the redemptive fold ofChristianity and
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2014)
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Where I got the book: review copy provided by publisher. This review first appeared on the Historical Novel Society website.

The intersection of the idealism, religious fervor, and experimentation of the early American republic with 19th-century racism provides the context for this account of the Connecticut-based Foreign Mission School, known locally as the Heathen School. Its core population was made up of Hawaiian men brought to America by the China trade and of Native American youths; its pur
Vannessagrace Vannessagrace
The Heathen School was centered around its relationship with Hawaiians and Native Americans.

school was expressly designed to make Hawaiians and Native Americans white

it’s Christian goal was to invoke Shariah or Islamic law (In its Islamic context, Sharia may be defined as the totality of God’s commands and exhortations, intended to regulate all aspects of human conduct and guide believers on the path of eternal salvation)

Let them become farmers instea
The premise of this book was interesting. Back in the early 1800s in Connecticut, a group of people founded a "Heathen school" to both teach people of different nations (including Hawaiians and several Native American tribes, as well as an Indian, a New Zealander, and others from other countries) and more importantly, to convert them to Christianity. The school seemed successful at first and raised a ton of money and had some prominent advocates. However, when the converting didn't seem to stick ...more
Okay, the fact that it took me four months to read is not a good sign. It's not a badly written book, it's nominated for all kind of literary awards, but it was "just the facts, ma'm." That can be a problem with history books when there are no diaries to search and no living witnesses. So it seemed dry to me.

But oh, would it make a good historical fiction. Missionaries brought so-called heathens to the New England school thinking they would become Christians and go home to Hawaii and convert ev
Skylar Hatfield
I learned quite a bit from this book. It's theme corresponds with other reading I have done. Still, I do not fully recommend this book. The author's style is weird. There is not a good flow from chapter to chapter. The author shifts from the past to present in ways that don't feel natural. In fact, at the end of one chapter, the author suddenly presents a discussion of modern concerns about gay marriage. At that point, I felt betrayed. I also believe the author betrayed his subjects by trying to ...more
Jessica Leight
This was a fascinating and engaging book about an unusual episode in early American history: the establishment of a missionary school in northwest Connecticut intended to educate "heathen" young men, particularly Pacific Islanders and Native Americans, and prepare them for a life of missionary work. The school ended up foundering, for reasons that are not entirely surprising, but it's a very interesting tale. The book feels almost divided in half: the first half is largely preoccupied with nativ ...more
Margaret Sankey
John Demos finds another little microcosm of early American history--in this case, the American Board of Missions' boarding school in Cornwall, CT, which was founded in 1819 to educate the "heathen" contacted by New England's long sailing reach. At first home to Chinese, Hawaiian and Aleutian male students, the school was an astonishing cosmopolitan center. The arrival, however, of the sons of leading Cherokee and Choctaw families shifted the relationship from one of dependent and humble student ...more
Uluwehi Hopkins
John Demos has attained his level of notoriety for a good reason. If you're looking for an interesting twist on American history, then this subject certainly fits the bill. However, as a scholar of Hawaiian history, I can honestly say that there are a lot of holes in this particular tale. Is it Demos' fault? I leave that for you to decide.

Demos had a limited understanding of an indigenous society, which itself has been wildly misinterpreted for nearly two centuries. Therefore, he was working of
Gillian Hollett
I first heard of John Demos’ latest book, The Heathen School on an NPR Books podcast. They featured a great teaser for the listeners and it certainly piqued my interest.

The premise of this school was to bring in “heathens”— native americans and asians predominantly, educate in the language, religion and culture of a Christ-centic New England and subsequently unleash them as missionaries on their “primitive,” non-Christian homeland and community.

A great plan right? The only problem was that liv
Wow, hard book to call. A history of a horrid, disgusting, heartbreaking episode in American and Christian history, centered around the missionary school established to civilize and Christianize Native American and Sandwich Island (i.e. Hawaii) natives who were to go back and do the same for their "kind." The problem with the book is that the emotion is missing, and tends to be cold.
Demos has documented a very interesting period and project in our nation's history. As a graduate of a Christian university and employee of a Christian school, the subject was particularly compelling. But I feel he spoiled it at the beginning by telling his opinion about why the project fell apart. I abandoned the book at the beginning of part II.
An account of the time in US history when it was considered a good idea to educate and Christianize young men and send them back to their home countries. Set in the early 1800's, it didn't work out as the forefathers thought it would, considering the successful Christian rate was only about 25%. Two interracial marriages resulted, which shocked everyone.
History of a school established to convert and teach "heathens" in the early 19th century in Connecticut. It was of surprising short duration. Many of the stories of the students are sad -- separation, early death. A view of a society quite different from the present.
A history book that reads like a history book--sometimes dry. But done with considerable passion and on an interesting topic. I learned quite a bit about missionary attitudes and the Trail of Tears. Worth a read!
Joan Porte
In actuality, I didn't really read this. It was a great title that made me grab it from the library shelf. Good idea for a book it's just too bad this man's writing style is as boring as watching hair grow
There was potential for something really interesting here, but it was sooo boring, until the second to last paragraph, which connected things to Indian Removal. Great topic, poor writing.
Jun 09, 2014 Sara marked it as to-read
Shelves: history
Read to page 64.
The Heathen School was established in Connecticut in order to civilize non-christian nations with Christianity. "Children" from Hawaii, Indian and China came to the school in the hopes that they would return home and disseminate the Word of God. I was interested in the personal lives of the "heathens" but unfortunately it was more from the perspective of the school/church and very little is know about the students. Although well written it was not a "moving story of families and communities".
So dry... So boring.
Gayla Bassham
I don't love this the way I love Demos's The Unredeemed Captive, but it is still a well-written and insightful work of history, and filled with great set-pieces. I particularly recommend the sections dealing with the death of Henry Obookiah and with Elias Boudinot's courtship of Harriet Gold. (I would love to read a biography of Elias Boudinot or of John Ridge, whom Demos really brings to life in this book.)
What an interesting man John Demos is! Enjoyed meeting him and hearing him tell the tales of researching this book about a school in New England where indigenous boys came to be "civilized" so that they could go back to their own country/people and spread the word.

Needless to say: It was an epic failure. Good history. Interesting!
Apr 12, 2015 Leah added it
Not a pretty story, but an important book.
Carmen marked it as to-read
Apr 17, 2015
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Apr 15, 2015
Muslimah Wali
Muslimah Wali marked it as to-read
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