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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
408 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 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, many thousands of American Protestant missionaries were sent to live throughout the non-European world. They expected to change the people they encountered, but those foreign people ended up transforming the missionaries. Their experience abroad made many of these missionaries and their children critical of racism, imperialism, and religious orthodoxy. When they returned home, they brought new liberal values back to their own society. Protestants Abroad reveals the untold story of how these missionary-connected individuals left an enduring mark on American public life as writers, diplomats, academics, church officials, publishers, foundation executives, and social activists.

David A. 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 citizens with language skills and direct experience in Asian societies catapulted dozens of missionary-connected individuals into prominent roles in intelligence and diplomacy. Meanwhile, Edwin Reischauer and other scholars with missionary backgrounds led the growth of Foreign Area Studies in universities during the Cold War. The missionary contingent advocated multiculturalism and anticolonialism, pushed their churches in ecumenical and social-activist directions, and joined with 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 reveals the crucial role that missionary-connected American Protestants played in the development of modern American liberalism, and how they helped other Americans reimagine their nation's place in the world.

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).


"Thoroughly researched and well crafted, this is a reminder of the influence that liberal, cosmopolitan Protestant intellectuals have had on American life."--Publishers Weekly (Starred review)


"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

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Table of Contents:

Preface xi
1 Introduction: The Protestant Boomerang 1
2 To Make the Crooked Straight: Henry Luce, Pearl Buck, and John Hersey 24
3 To Save the Plan: Can Missions Be Revised? 59
4 The Protestant International and the Political Mobilization of Churches 94
5 Anticolonialism vs. Zionism 117
6 Who Is My Brother? The White Peril and the Japanese 139
7 Telling the Truth about the Two Chinas 163
8 Creating America’s Thailand in Diplomacy and Fiction 187
9 Against Orientalism: Universities and Modern Asia 214
10 Toward the Peace Corps: Post-Missionary Service Abroad 252
11 Of One Blood: Joining the Civil Rights Struggle at Home 266
12 Conclusion: Cain’s Answer 288
Notes 301
Index 383

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