Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Brian Bocking
RELIGION, MIGRATION, MUTATION: European Association for the Study of Religions Annual Conference & International Association for the History of Religions Special Conference
Early Migrant Buddhism? The first London Buddhist Mission, 1889
Liverpool Hope University
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields

On 11th March 1878, in the Liverpool Register Office, a 38-year-old Irishman, fluent Japanese speaker and former ship’s captain named Charles Pfoundes was married to 22-year old Rosa Alice Hill, a daughter of the governor of Sandwich gaol in Kent. ‘Captain’ and Mrs Pfoundes soon moved to London, where Pfoundes made a name for himself throughout the ‘80s as a prolific speaker on all matters Japanese. In 1899, Pfoundes launched, with formal Japanese backing, a Buddhist mission called the Buddhist Propagation Society.  Hitherto entirely forgotten in the history of Western Buddhism, the BPS was founded ten years before the so-called ‘earliest’ Western Buddhist missions (in California) and almost two decades before the arrival in London in 1908 of Ananda Metteyya (Allan Bennett), generally regarded as the first Buddhist missionary to the UK. Drawing on new collaborative research with Laurence Cox and YOSHINAGA Shin’ichi, this paper outlines the genesis and activities of the BPS and the extent to which its recent discovery helps to rewrite the history of Western Buddhism.