by Tim Keegan
Dr John Philip towered over nineteenth-century South African history, championing the rights of indigenous people against the growing power of white supremacy, but today he is largely forgotten or misremembered. From the time he arrived in South Africa as superintendent of the London Missionary Society in 1819, Philip played a major role in the idealist and humanitarian campaigns of the day, fighting for the emancipation of slaves, protecting the Khoi against injustice, and opposing the dispossession of the Xhosa in the Eastern Cape.
A fascinating picture of South Africa and the British Empire during a time of great change, Dr Philip’s Empire documents Philip’s encounters with Dutch colonists, English settlers and indigenous South Africans, his never-ending battles with fellow missionaries and colonial authorities, and his lobbying among the powerful for indigenous people’s civil rights. A controversial and influential figure, Philip was considered an interfering radical subversive by believers in white superiority, but he has been labelled a condescending, hypocritical ‘white liberal’ in a more modern age. This book seeks to revive him from these judgements and to recover the real man and his noble but doomed struggles for justice in the context of his times.