International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

The American Protestant Missionary Network in Ottoman Turkey, 1876-1914
Devrim Ümit PhD

American missionaries have long been the missing link in the study of the late Ottoman period despite the fact that they left their permanent trade in American as well as Western conceptions of the period such as “Terrible Turk” and “Red Sultan” just to name a few. From the landing of the first two American Protestant missionaries, Levi Parsons and Pliny Fisk, on the Ottoman Empire, as a matter of fact on the Near East, in early 1820, until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, American missionaries occupied the increasing attention of the Ottoman bureaucracy in domestic and foreign affairs while the mission work in the Ottoman Empire established the largest investment of the American Board of Commissionaries for Foreign Missions (A.B.C.F.M.) in the world, even above China and India, on the eve of the war. The bulk of the correspondence of the Ottoman Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the period was with the United States and this was chiefly concerned about the American mission schools. Therefore, this paper seeks to examine the encounter between the Ottoman officialdom and the American Protestant missionaries in Ottoman Turkey during the successive regimes of Sultan Abdülhamid II and the Committee of Union and Progress, the Unionists in the period of 1876-1914. The paper, while shedding light on the historical development of the activities of the American Board, mainly the schools and addressing the concerns and reactions of the Ottoman authorities to American missionaries and their establishments, demonstrates further how the missionaries were instrumental in the orientation and articulation of the American foreign policy towards the Ottoman Empire even to the extent of sending the American war vessels to the Ottoman ports six times under three different Presidents in a ten-year period. The very agenda of the missionaries, namely, to evangelize the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire, which remained dormant throughout the nineteenth century, resurfaced on the eve of the First World War given the radical change in the ethnic and religious map of the Empire in favor of Turks and Muslims following the disastrous Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 carving out the last remaining Balkan territories of the Ottoman Empire.

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