“A Remarkable Gathering”: The Conference on Living Religions within the British Empire (1924) and Its Historical Significance

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Journal of the American Academy of Religion






This article provides the first significant scholarly treatment of “The Conference on Some Living Religions within the British Empire,” which took place between September 22 and October 2, 1924, in conjunction with the British Empire Exhibition of 1924. An unprecedented event in Britain’s history, the conference brought numerous scholars and “holy men of the Empire” to London. As a catalyst for the modern study of religion, the conference merits comparison to the better-known Parliament of the World’s Religions that met in Chicago in 1893. Based on extensive archival research in the United Kingdom and on contemporary newspaper reportage, the article argues that knowledge of this conference helps redress general inattention to the history of interreligious dialogue. What is more, it contributes to the rich literature on “religion and empire” that has emerged in recent years, not least in the pages of JAAR. Finally, it argues that an analysis of this conference partly confirms and partly contests “orientalism” as a helpful category for understanding Western engagement with non-Western religions and cultures.