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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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Acknowledgements

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The origins of this work lie within my search for a possible research topic in American-Turkish relations that I could develop into my master’s thesis. I wanted to analyse the relationship from a historical perspective, thus my research started with US-Ottoman Empire encounters. As I progressed, I realized that American missionaries played a significant role in the development of American-Ottoman diplomatic relations. Hence, I broadened my scope to include American missionaries. Furthermore, by bringing history and religious studies together, my thesis would fit the interdisciplinary approach that is taken at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies. Later the book that I received from my friend Patricia Temiz called Fifty Years In Constantinople And Recollections of Robert College by George Washburn gave me the idea of analyzing American missionaries within the context of their schools, thus also adding education to the subject areas under consideration. Robert College is one of the most long-standing products of American missionary activity that still continues to admit students. Robert College is also significant as it was the first American higher education institution to be established outside of the United States. The methodology of the thesis is desk research undertaken in the American Research Institute in Istanbul and at the Bosphorus and Bilkent University libraries. The thesis includes primary sources such as memoirs, letters, annual reports, catalogues, newspapers as well as secondary sources including academic journals, books and Master’s and PhD theses. Apart from archival research, the thesis also retrieved the primary sources via...

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