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Protestants Abroad:
How Missionaries Tried to Change the World but Changed America
David A. Hollinger

Hardcover | October 2017 | $35.00 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691158433
392 pp. | 6 x 9 | 32 halftones.
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They sought to transform the world, and ended up transforming twentieth-century America

Between the 1890s and the Vietnam era, tens of thousands of American Protestant missionaries were stationed throughout the non-European world. They expected to change the peoples they encountered abroad, but those foreign peoples ended up changing the missionaries. Missionary experience made many of these Americans critical of racism, imperialism, and religious orthodoxy. When they returned home, the missionaries and their children liberalized their own society. Protestants Abroad reveals the untold story of how these missionary-connected individuals left their enduring mark on American public life as writers, diplomats, academics, church officials, publishers, foundation executives, and social activists.

David Hollinger provides riveting portraits of such figures as Pearl Buck, John Hersey, and Life and Time publisher Henry Luce, former “mish kids” who strove through literature and journalism to convince white Americans of the humanity of other peoples. Hollinger describes how the U.S. government’s need for people with language skills and direct experience in Asian societies catapulted dozens of missionary-connected individuals into prominent roles in intelligence and diplomacy. He also shows how Edwin Reischauer and other scholars with missionary backgrounds led the growth of Foreign Area Studies in universities during the Cold War. Hollinger shows how the missionary contingent advocated multiculturalism at home and anticolonialism abroad, pushed their churches in ecumenical and social-activist directions, and joined with cosmopolitan Jewish intellectuals to challenge traditional Protestant cultural hegemony and promote a pluralist vision of American life. Missionary cosmopolitans were the Anglo-Protestant counterparts of the New York Jewish intelligentsia of the same era.

Protestants Abroad sheds new light on how missionary-connected American Protestants played a crucial role in the development of modern American liberalism, and helped Americans reimagine their nation as a global citizen.

David A. Hollinger is the Preston Hotchkis Professor of American History Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Protestant Liberalism in Modern American History and Science, Jews, and Secular Culture: Studies in Mid-Twentieth-Century American Intellectual History (both Princeton).


"Writing with eloquence and confidence, Hollinger convincingly argues that the Protestant U.S. missionary experience had a surprisingly large and pervasive impact on American culture, politics, and society in the middle decades of the twentieth century. This is a much-needed book, with many masterful insights."--Ian Tyrrell, author of Reforming the World: The Creation of America's Moral Empire

"This learned book redresses a significant gap in the history of religion and U.S. intellectual history. Remarkably researched and beautifully written, Protestants Abroad shows how missionary-connected individuals shaped our understandings of social justice, American power, and domestic politics."--Melani McAlister, author of Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by David A. Hollinger:

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File created: 4/20/2017

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