Why are some former colonies more democratic than others? The British Empire has been singled out in the debates on colonialism for its benign influence on democracy. Much of this scholarship has focused on colonialism's institutional legacies; has neglected to distinguish among the actors associated with colonialism; and has been nation-state focused. Our subnational approach allows us to isolate the democracy effects of key actors operating in colonial domains—Christian missionaries—from those of colonial powers. Missionaries influenced democracy by promoting education; education promoted social inclusivity and spurred social reform movements. To make our case, we constructed colonial and postcolonial period district datasets of India and conducted panel analysis of literacy and democracy variations backed by case studies. The findings challenge the conventional wisdom of the centrality of the effects of British institutions on democracy, instead also highlighting the missionaries’ human capital legacies.