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).
"Rich with illuminating portraits of persons and ideas, this analytically pointed and historically nuanced book provides a riveting look at the complex missionary project to build a global human community. Hollinger explores how this multidimensional endeavor grappled with human difference and vexing political conflicts abroad and at home, and illuminates how its principals navigated the boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ the spiritual and the secular, the universal and the particular."--Ira Katznelson, author of Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time
"Protestants Abroad is one of those rare books that slices American society in a way that hardly anyone--certainly no one of Hollinger’s intellectual breadth--has thought to cut the cake before. He convincingly shows how the descendants of overseas missionaries have been influential far out of proportion to their numbers, and have possessed a deeper understanding than most Americans of other peoples and cultures."--Adam Hochschild, author of Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936--1939
"Hollinger tells an astonishing, counterintuitive story of how American Protestant missionaries went abroad armed with a radical egalitarian ideology and eventually came home to spread the gospel of multiculturalism, racial equality, and human rights. With verve and passion, he shines a brilliant light on their long-overlooked influence, showing how they transformed American society in ways we have not fully realized."--Kai Bird, coauthor of the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by David A. Hollinger: