Reforming the World: The Creation of America's Moral Empire

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Overview

Reforming the World offers a sophisticated account of how and why, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American missionaries and moral reformers undertook work abroad at an unprecedented rate and scale. Looking at various organizations such as the Young Men's Christian Association and the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, Ian Tyrrell describes the influence that the export of American values had back home, and explores the methods and networks used by reformers to fashion a global and nonterritorial empire. He follows the transnational American response to internal pressures, the European colonies, and dynamic changes in global society.

Examining the cultural context of American expansionism from the 1870s to the 1920s, Tyrrell provides a new interpretation of Christian and evangelical missionary work, and he addresses America's use of "soft power." He describes evangelical reform's influence on American colonial and diplomatic policy, emphasizes the limits of that impact, and documents the often idiosyncratic personal histories, aspirations, and cultural heritage of moral reformers such as Margaret and Mary Leitch, Louis Klopsch, Clara Barton, and Ida Wells. The book illustrates that moral reform influenced the United States as much as it did the colonial and quasi-colonial peoples Americans came in contact with, and shaped the architecture of American dealings with the larger world of empires through to the era of Woodrow Wilson.

Investigating the wide-reaching and diverse influence of evangelical reform movements, Reforming the World establishes how transnational organizing played a vital role in America's political and economic expansion.

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Editorial Reviews

H-Soz-u-Kult
Reforming the World is a highly readable, sophisticated analysis of transnational American reform networks that draws on a wide range of primary sources. The book makes a powerful argument about the contributions of interconnected evangelical reformers to the shaping of American empire.
— Barbara Reeves-Elllington
Choice
In a study both thorough and perceptive, Tyrrell coves the global impact of reformist Protestant missionary efforts from the 1870s to the 1920s.
American Historical Review
This book will be of particular interest to transnational scholars, diplomatic historians, religious historians, and anyone curious about the origins of international humanitarianism. . . . [T]his study does a superb job demonstrating the manner in which moral reform influenced the United States as thoroughly as it did the foreign peoples American missionaries set out to save.
— Amy S Greenberg
Journal of Church and State
This is a finely crafted study grounded in careful analysis of a wide range of manuscript and newspaper sources. It will help to bridge the gap that too often exists between historians of American foreign affairs and historians of American Protestant missions.
— Brian Stanley
Journal of World History
One would be hard pressed to find an instance where Tyrrell's evidence does not speak to increased transnational, multidirectional flows of people and ideas. Moreover, Tyrrell rightly assesses Progressive Era evangelicals as complicated creatures whose ideas and actions were not informed by narrow or dogmatic notions of religion but rather reflected all manner of political and cultural circumstances and processes. Like any powerful work of world historical inquiry, Tyrrell's argument resonates with present global circumstances.
— Clif Stratton
H-Soz-u-Kult - Diese Rezension
The book is well crafted, and the multiple threads laid out at the beginning are carefully and subtly woven into a tight and coherent narrative, allowing the reader to enjoy the thrill of recognition as well the blossoming awareness of the entangled nature of the moral reform movement in American imperialism. . . . Tyrrell has managed to create a book full of tensions and questions which the reader is drawn into, engages in, and emerges from with a broader understanding of, and critical insight into, this phase of American imperialism.
American Historical Review - Amy S Greenberg
This book will be of particular interest to transnational scholars, diplomatic historians, religious historians, and anyone curious about the origins of international humanitarianism. . . . [T]his study does a superb job demonstrating the manner in which moral reform influenced the United States as thoroughly as it did the foreign peoples American missionaries set out to save.
H-Soz-u-Kult - Barbara Reeves-Elllington
Reforming the World is a highly readable, sophisticated analysis of transnational American reform networks that draws on a wide range of primary sources. The book makes a powerful argument about the contributions of interconnected evangelical reformers to the shaping of American empire.
Journal of Church and State - Brian Stanley
This is a finely crafted study grounded in careful analysis of a wide range of manuscript and newspaper sources. It will help to bridge the gap that too often exists between historians of American foreign affairs and historians of American Protestant missions.
Journal of World History - Clif Stratton
One would be hard pressed to find an instance where Tyrrell's evidence does not speak to increased transnational, multidirectional flows of people and ideas. Moreover, Tyrrell rightly assesses Progressive Era evangelicals as complicated creatures whose ideas and actions were not informed by narrow or dogmatic notions of religion but rather reflected all manner of political and cultural circumstances and processes. Like any powerful work of world historical inquiry, Tyrrell's argument resonates with present global circumstances.
American Historical Review - Amy S. Greenberg
This book will be of particular interest to transnational scholars, diplomatic historians, religious historians, and anyone curious about the origins of international humanitarianism. . . . [T]his study does a superb job demonstrating the manner in which moral reform influenced the United States as thoroughly as it did the foreign peoples American missionaries set out to save.
Journal of American History - Lisa J. Pruitt
Tyrrell's work exemplifies the methods and complexity of transnational approaches to history. . . . [S]pecialists will find this book an important contribution to the historical study of imperialism and missions.
From the Publisher
"The book is well crafted, and the multiple threads laid out at the beginning are carefully and subtly woven into a tight and coherent narrative, allowing the reader to enjoy the thrill of recognition as well the blossoming awareness of the entangled nature of the moral reform movement in American imperialism. . . . Tyrrell has managed to create a book full of tensions and questions which the reader is drawn into, engages in, and emerges from with a broader understanding of, and critical insight into, this phase of American imperialism."—Diese Rezension, H-Soz-u-Kult

"In a study both thorough and perceptive, Tyrrell coves the global impact of reformist Protestant missionary efforts from the 1870s to the 1920s."Choice

"This book will be of particular interest to transnational scholars, diplomatic historians, religious historians, and anyone curious about the origins of international humanitarianism. . . . [T]his study does a superb job demonstrating the manner in which moral reform influenced the United States as thoroughly as it did the foreign peoples American missionaries set out to save."—Amy S Greenberg, American Historical Review

"Reforming the World is a highly readable, sophisticated analysis of transnational American reform networks that draws on a wide range of primary sources. The book makes a powerful argument about the contributions of interconnected evangelical reformers to the shaping of American empire."—Barbara Reeves-Elllington, H-Soz-u-Kult

"This is a finely crafted study grounded in careful analysis of a wide range of manuscript and newspaper sources. It will help to bridge the gap that too often exists between historians of American foreign affairs and historians of American Protestant missions."—Brian Stanley, Journal of Church and State

"One would be hard pressed to find an instance where Tyrrell's evidence does not speak to increased transnational, multidirectional flows of people and ideas. Moreover, Tyrrell rightly assesses Progressive Era evangelicals as complicated creatures whose ideas and actions were not informed by narrow or dogmatic notions of religion but rather reflected all manner of political and cultural circumstances and processes. Like any powerful work of world historical inquiry, Tyrrell's argument resonates with present global circumstances."—Clif Stratton, Journal of World History

"Tyrrell's work exemplifies the methods and complexity of transnational approaches to history. . . . [S]pecialists will find this book an important contribution to the historical study of imperialism and missions."—Lisa J. Pruitt, Journal of American History

"Reforming the World, a dispassionate but deeply original work, puts American Protestant missionaries at the center of the struggle against the opium traffic."—David T. Courtwright, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691145211
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2010
  • Series: America in the World Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Ian Tyrrell is Scientia Professor of History at the University of New South Wales, Australia. His books include "Transnational Nation" and "Historians in Public".
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Read an Excerpt

Reforming the World

THE CREATION OF AMERICA'S MORAL EMPIRE
By Ian Tyrrell

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2010 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-14521-1


Chapter One

WEBS OF COMMUNICATION

When William T. Stead, the British editor of the Review of Reviews, went to a watery grave with the Titanic on April 15, 1912, supporters of moral reform wept openly. It was said to be typical of his "generosity, courage, and humanity that Stead was last seen leading women and children to the safety of the stricken liner's lifeboats." Stead was a friend of "America," a country whose efforts on behalf of international cooperation, arbitration, and missionary work abroad he deeply admired. It was this admiration that put him on that ill-fated journey across the high seas. He was traveling to speak on "universal peace" at the Men and Religion Forward Movement Congress in New York City on April 22. Though well-known as the author of The Americanization of the World, he did not see Americanization as the message that the United States carried in its cultural and economic expansion abroad. Rather, his admiration of the American republic was part of a much larger story. Just five years before his drowning, he proclaimed that "The Twentieth Century is the Century of Internationalism" in the Review of Internationalism, edited at the Office of the Foundation of the Promotion of Internationalism at The Hague. He knew that diplomats, President Theodore Roosevelt, and American peace reformers had played important parts in the events leading up to the Second Hague Peace Conference (1907), and saw Americanization and Anglo-American influence as harbingers of and agents for the spread of internationalism.

Internationalism entailed conceptually and often practically the relations between nations, chiefly as sovereign states operating on a diplomatic level. As critics have pointed out, this internationalism was Eurocentric, hierarchical, and dependent on military strength and economic power. It entailed the spread of European moral and ethical standards of civilization, an observation that should not surprise for an era of imperialism and nationalism. Internationalism was a product not chiefly of the noble aspirations that motivated Stead but of material interests. Groups of nations sought through international action protection from the arbitrary changes that accompanied a more interconnected world. Internationalism depended not only on the fact of nationalism but also on the ability of some powers to exert influence over others to extend higher standards of conduct between humans. In contrast, for Stead internationalism did not operate simply as a set of dealings among nation-states. It extended to a web of transnational influences-influences that embraced groups, ideas, individuals, and institutions across national boundaries. The efforts of transnational reform organizations provided the cultural and intellectual context for the spread of Stead's new internationalism. Europeans, not Americans, took the lead in the growth of International Voluntary Associations (IVAs), but quickly Americans extended and complemented this internationalizing effort with their own distinctive contribution. All this Stead understood. Americanization, reform across national boundaries, and ideologies of internationalism were closely intertwined. In turn, Stead was aware that the United States could be no island, isolated from the world. The great republic was irrevocably drawn not only into closer relations between nations but also into transnational ties through commercial, organizational, and social intercourse.

Vast networks of transnational influences impinged upon the United States in the late nineteenth century. By coincidence, American involvement in this transnational activity surged ahead in 1885, at the exact same time that Stead first burst to prominence as a journalist in Britain agitating against "vice," particularly prostitution, in his famous essay "The Maiden Tribute of Babylon." The transnational activism in which Americans engaged beginning in the 1880s sprang not from thin air but from this wider context of moral reform of which Stead's work was an important part. Material networks' expansion in the 1870s allowed transnational institutions to flourish; an intricate web of connections facilitated and spurred reform across American national boundaries. American awareness of the nation's interdependency with other countries was highlighted by changing patterns of trade, tourism, transport, and communications, by commercial exhibitions and world's fairs, and by media changes, especially in print culture. Though the missionary and moral reform surge of the late nineteenth century in the United States was a product of these influences and roughly comparable to transnational movements in Europe, the American version became distinctively global in its aspirations and highly dependant on new technologies of international communication.

American commerce abroad grew, and not just with its traditional Atlantic trading partner, Britain. Though American exports to Europe remained an important driving force for the American economy, American trade was taking on a global reach. Approximately 72 percent of American exports went to Europe in the late nineteenth century, but imports from outside Europe increased to one half of the total at the turn of the twentieth century. The biggest increase was not from Latin America but Asia, from which imports nearly doubled from 1860 to 1901-5, reaching 15.4 percent of the total. Asia also became an increasingly important export market, from just 2.4 percent in 1860 to 11.3 percent of the total by 1921-25. Much of this increase concerned Japan, but the United States also drew on more diverse international sources for its raw materials and exotic goods. Not only was the United States becoming more commercially interdependent with Asia; closer to home Americans scoured Central America for resources and began to export capital. Railroads, mines, sugar, and fruit plantations in Latin America and the Caribbean became new outlets for American business investment. Cuba and Mexico were especially important targets.

Americans were journeying abroad more often; but they were also living in many foreign countries as businessmen and expatriates, thus raising for the Department of State issues of extraterritoriality. Through their sheer presence, missionaries, traders, businessmen, and even prostitutes widened the American external footprint in the 1870s and 1880s, producing trouble for diplomats and complications for the American legal system on the rights of sojourning citizens. The nation was becoming enmeshed in new transnational flows that were global, not merely transatlantic, and its people were increasingly entangled in circumstances beyond national borders.

As a key element in these changes, the global spread of communications proceeded apace. From the time of the practical demonstration of the Morse code in 1844, enterprising businessmen worked to link nations with the aid of the telegraph. Cables were laid across the English Channel in 1851 and, after earlier failures, a transatlantic cable was successfully completed in 1866. When an experimental and temporary cross-ocean cable was first laid some years earlier, the New York Times reported that the infrastructure was "the greatest enterprise of the nineteenth century"; it promoted a "close union of nations in the mutual bonds of interest and amity." At first Europe and North America were brought into closer connection for speedy and reliable information on shipping, trade opportunities, prices, and business conditions. By 1870, rapid European communications had been extended as far as Singapore, and by 1903 trans-Pacific cables linked the United States directly to its new colony, the Philippines, and then on to Hong Kong and Shanghai. Transport timetabling and hotel bookings were thereby made much easier. The expansion of canals, railroads, and steamship lines nicely complemented the growth in telegraph communications. The sprouting of transport networks was most intense across Europe, where rail track mileage trebled between 1870 and 1914, bringing countries closer together and allowing missionaries and tourists to travel more speedily to Asia, especially when coupled with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The Atlantic was shrinking with equal rapidity in travel times and costs, a development that helped integrate Anglo-American moral reform networks. The first steamships, the Sirius and the Great Western, had arrived in New York from London as early as 1838, heralding the future means of ocean travel that would cut travel times and make for more certain passage. Nonetheless, until the Civil War most crossings were by sail, then competition and technology combined to slash the one-way cabin fare by half to less than $100 between the 1850s and 1900. By the early twentieth century about a dozen steamship lines worked the North Atlantic in regular, speedy services and prompted extensive international travel among an elite of Americans. Foreign oceanic travel by Americans reached one hundred thousand passengers per year in 1885. By that time, steamship services across the North Pacific had been working for eighteen years, and the distant South Pacific destinations of Australia and New Zealand were connected to San Francisco by a mail service that became an all-steamer route in the early 1880s.

Not only did middle-class and elite travel across the Atlantic flourish; global trips also became fashionable and newsworthy. Among those who traveled around the world were the inevitable tourists and businessmen, but reformers and missionaries joined in as well. The global excursion was more than an American trend. Thomas Cook, the famous English tour operator, did so in 1872-73, taking 223 days. Gospel revivalists from Britain crossed the Atlantic westward, just as Americans sailed to Europe, and British evangelicals toured the empire, covering vast distances, as did the Glasgow-based Rev. Alexander Somerville. In 1877-79, for example, the Scot "set out for our Australian colonies." In eighteen months of travel from Britain "he journeyed 34,000 miles and spoke to 610 audiences." He also roved across South Africa, Europe, and the Middle East in the 1880s. Nevertheless, the prominence of Americans within the new itinerant style of transnational preaching increased, and reformers and journalists joined in the fetish not just for round-the-world travel but for speedy passages that could gain press coverage and popular acclaim. The obsession with these feats suggested a heightened American interest in the linking of global perspectives and technological achievements in communications. The trend began in 1870 with the exploits of the aptly named American George Francis Train; his speedy circumnavigation allegedly became the basis for Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. An increasing number of intrepid women travelers were among those going abroad and winning-in the case of Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman (writing as Nellie Bly) through her newspaper account of her round-the-world-trip-temporary fame, praise, or influence. Bly's Around the World in Seventy-Two Days (1890) was marketed heavily in Joseph Pulitzer's New York World. So much of a fetish had this travel bug become that, by the 1890s, going around the world once was not enough. The temperance reformer Jessie Ackermann eventually managed eight trips, but others eclipsed her efforts as the pattern of missionary and moral reform involvement grew. In the new world of speedier and more predictable communications, changing the world for moral reformers became almost a matter of cumulative circulation; reform-minded travel became, in part, a means of demonstrating global awareness and global reach.

The wider experience and awareness of tourism was reflected in the growing interest in travel literature. Returning missionaries gave magic lantern presentations highlighting the exotic places they visited, and missionary magazines became littered with lush images of tropical places-the "palmy plains" and "coral strands" that evoked the memorable phrases of the Reginald Heber hymn familiar throughout the Anglo-American world. More secular clubs developed "travel-by-proxy" programs, provided advice, heard travel talks, watched slide presentations of foreign lands, and promoted "the rise of a tourist mentality." Many of these clubs were founded after 1900 and reflected Progressive Era flexing of women's institutional presence through the Women's Club movement, but some went back a generation or more. Before 1890, missionary outlets were vital in structuring knowledge of foreign places, but secular travel literature was also significant. Of 1,765 travel books published in the United States from 1830 to 1900, 81 percent appeared after 1860. On top of this came the intimidating number of periodical accounts. Thus National Geographic became a "dominant force in establishing American impressions of the world, its inhabitants, and the scientific enterprise." With about four-fifths of the magazine's circulation going to such people as businessmen and professionals in the 1880s, it represented the interests of the influential but moved increasingly in the direction of popular middle-class taste. Though geographical information available to Americans from this and other sources did not necessarily dissolve ill-informed representations of exotic cultures, it did multiply the amount of information and whetted the appetite for things foreign. Through newspapers, magazines, and personal tourist contacts, the 1870s to 1890s saw Americans of the middle to upper-middle classes becoming interested in the fashions, food, art, and domestic decorative styles of foreign lands. Exhibits on East Asia at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 and World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 excited interest. Japanese decorative art styles penetrated through European fashions, while musicals featuring non-Western themes also flourished. Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta The Mikado had an enormously successful New York season in 1885.

From a European perspective, the mid- to late nineteenth century was marked by relative peace in the international arena. Bookended by the Napoleonic and French Revolutionary period before it, and the Great War of 1914-18 that succeeded it, the era experienced no world wars. This image of a peaceful world was partly an illusion, to be sure. The American Civil War was but one of many bloody conflicts on the periphery of Europe. Numerous "savage wars of peace," as Rudyard Kipling called them, occurred on the boundaries of empires as they expanded and as Europeans sought to suppress the resistance of colonized peoples in Asia and Africa. Nevertheless, conditions existed for more frequent collaboration and negotiation among the political and commercial elites of the European powers in ways that inevitably involved the non-Western world. This process entailed humanitarian, religious, and moral entanglements, and the United States became involved.

Most notably the Congress of Berlin (1884-85) met to organize the commercial development of the Congo Basin and preserve the trading rights of all nations, but American and British missionaries and antislavery societies, such as Britain's Aboriginal Protection Society, pressed successfully for action against the still surviving international slave trade as part of the deliberations. Though it suited the British government's political and economic objectives to use this moral opinion to provide impetus to the Berlin congress, the signatories thereby set precedents in international law on the suppression of slavery. For the first time "in a multinational treaty," nations accepted the principle "that 'native welfare' was a matter of international concern." The Congo would not be owned by an individual European power but would be "internationalized." Ironically, the results of the congress were to cement the power of the privately run Congo Free State, which proved a mechanism for the quasi-enslavement of Africans, not their protection. The shock over the appalling treatment of the Congolese under King Leopold of Belgium's private company rule after 1885 stimulated a further rush of humanitarian sentiment and missionary involvement aimed at curbing the king's power, beginning with moves against the internal African slave trade during the 1889-90 Brussels Conference.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Reforming the World by Ian Tyrrell Copyright © 2010 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix Abbreviations xi Introduction 1

Part I: Networks of Empire Chapter 1: Webs of Communication 13
Chapter 2: Missionary Lives, Transnational Networks: The Misses Margaret and Mary Leitch 28

Part II: Origins of American Empire Chapter 3: The Missionary Impulse 49
Chapter 4: The Matrix of Moral Reform 74
Chapter 5: Blood, Souls, and Power: American Humanitarianism Abroad in the 1890s 98

Part III: The Challenge of American Colonialism Chapter 6: Reforming Colonialism 123
Chapter 7: Opium and the Fashioning of the American Moral Empire 146
Chapter 8: Ida Wells and Others: Radical Protest and the Networks of American Expansion 166

Part IV: The Era of World War I and the Wilsonian New World Order Chapter 9: States of Faith: Missions and Morality in Government 191
Chapter 10: To Make a Dry World: The New World Order of Prohibition 209

Conclusion: The Judgments of Heaven: Change and Continuity in Moral Reform 227
Notes 247
Index 309

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