Skip to main content
Select Source:

William Carey

William Carey

The English Baptist preacher William Carey (1761-1834), known as the father of modern Protestant missions, was a pioneer of new-style evangelism in India.

William Carey was born on Aug. 17, 1761, in a village in Northamptonshire, where he spent his childhood in poverty. He first was a shoemaker's apprentice. Although without formal education, Carey was an avid reader and a precocious linguist. He became a Baptist preacher and worked as a schoolmaster and was already on his way to becoming the leader who, in spite of the general reluctance of the Protestant churches of his day, devised new ways to obey the great commission "to go and evangelize the nations."

In one of the most surprising publications of missionary history, Carey expounded some practical guidelines "to use means for the conversions of the Heathens" (Enquiry, 1788). In a sermon to his colleagues (1791) he first used the words which would become the creed of modern missions: "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God." In 1792 the first modern-style missionary society was founded: The Baptist Missionary Society. It was a model for the hundreds of societies to follow in the 19th century.

In 1793 Carey arrived in India, where he was confronted with the antimissionary attitude of the British colonial government. He settled in the Danish colony of Serampore, near Calcutta, where he inspired the teamwork of the "Serampore Trio" (Carey, William Ward, and Joshua Marshman). This "commune" attempted to translate the universality of the Christian faith into terms of practical involvement in all aspects of Indian life.

The basic principle of communal life was that every member should be, as far as possible, self-supporting. Carey paid for his missionary work (among other things) by acting as a director of an indigo factory and as a professor of languages in a secular institution. The objective of the community was to disseminate the gospel in all possible ways: by preaching, by teaching (in schools), and by literature (translating the Bible into more than 30 languages). Carey's translation service was noteworthy. He also made available some of the Indian classics and was instrumental in the renaissance of Hindu culture in the 19th century.

Carey believed that Indians could be authentically evangelized only by their own countrymen. He set out, therefore, to prepare converts for this task and broadened the scope of education in the mission schools. Serampore College was conceived not as a seminary but as a liberal arts college for Christians and non-Christians.

Carey died in Serampore on June 9, 1834, an internationally honored figure.

Further Reading

Carey's An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians (1792) was republished in a new facsimile edition, edited by Ernest A. Payne (1961). The most complete biography is still S. Pearce Carey, William Carey (1923; 8th ed. 1934). A popular biography with an extensive bibliography is Walter B. Davis, William Carey: Father of Modern Missions (1963).

Additional Sources

Drewery, Mary, William Carey: a biography, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House, 1979, 1978.

Drewery, Mary, William Carey: shoemaker and missionary, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1978.

George, Timothy., Faithful witness: the life and mission of William Carey, Birmingham, Ala.: New Hope, 1991.

Mangalwadi, Ruth., William Carey: a tribute by a Indian woman, New Delhi: Nivedit Good Books Distributors Pvt., 1993. □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"William Carey." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"William Carey." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/william-carey

"William Carey." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved February 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/william-carey

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Carey, William

William Carey, 1761–1834, English Baptist missionary and Orientalist, one of the first Protestant missionaries to India. He helped found the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792 and shortly thereafter went to India. Carey did most of the work in publishing the Bible in many Indian vernaculars. He wrote grammars of the vernaculars and several dictionaries. He became a professor of Sanskrit at Fort William College, Calcutta (now Kolkata).

See biographies by S. P. Carey (8th ed. rev. 1934) and W. B. Davis (1963).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Carey, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Feb. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Carey, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/carey-william

"Carey, William." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved February 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/carey-william

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.