Transnational approaches to US religious history have significantly enhanced our understanding of America’s engagement with the wider world. This optional module explores how Catholic and Protestant missionaries and evangelists helped to establish American political and cultural influence abroad and were transformed through their experience in the mission field since the mid-19th century and throughout the 20th century. It pays particular attention to the complex racial and gender hierarchies at play in the mission field, the occurring conflicts between imperial ideology and missionary commitment, and the interactions between US missionaries and local religious contexts in Europe, Asia and Africa, which affected traditions and transformed power relations.
We will explore how US missionaries and evangelists contributed to the rise of global humanitarianism, to the creation of what Ian Tyrrell called America’s 'Moral Empire', and to the establishment of US hegemony and cultural influence abroad in a Cold War world. Constantly shifting the perspective between the global and the national, the module will explore the extent to which missionary work challenged and transformed the identity and worldview of US Christians working overseas, for example with regard to race and segregation, and how the knowledge, narratives, and images they fed back into the political and religious discourse at home changed the United States.