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From Empire to Republic

The Role of American Missionaries in US-Ottoman Empire Relations and their Educational Legacy

Hacer Bahar

This book focuses on American missionary activities in the Ottoman Empire. After the construction of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission in 1810, American missionaries started to spread the Gospel around the world. The Ottoman Empire was perceived as a strategic place since it occupied Jerusalem. By the time they arrived, American missionaries found a weak central authority. Some of the Ottoman officials considered that Westernization of the public institutions in the Empire could strengthen central authority. In order to protect its integrity, the Ottoman Empire started to grant freedoms to the minorities. After gaining liberties, American Missionaries further strengthened their position in the Empire. This book analyzes the strong image of American missionary schools through Robert College which was established in 1863. Robert College which reflects American ideals, preserves its distinguished place to this day.

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In conclusion, the American missionary undertaking started to take root in the world following the creation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. American missionaries first aimed at evangelizing Native Americans in the Americas, but they soon broadened their mission by establishing missionary stations in different corners of the world. One of the most strategic missionary settlements was Jerusalem which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. Before American missionaries reached the Ottoman Empire, there had been little Ottoman-American diplomacy, with the first American-Ottoman encounters dating back to the late eighteenth century. With the arrival of American missionaries in the Empire, their representation and protection became a significant issue which eventually led to the commencement of formal diplomatic relations. With regard to the Ottoman Empire’s political climate at this time, it was losing its power due to wars and invasions. In order to protect its integrity, the empire sought to modernize its political, social and military system by adopting western measures and granting liberties to minorities. After the imperial decrees of 1839 and 1856, American missionaries increased their activities and started to be recognized by the Empire. Ottoman Empire officials further considered that the Empire could best be transformed via education. This book argues that American missionary schools were one of the most significant vehicles that spread western ideals in the Empire and became models for the Turkish education system. The book further suggests that Robert College can be considered as one of the most successful...

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