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The Question Of American Liberalism And The Origins Of The American Board Mission To The Levant And Its Historiography

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Chapter Summary

To understand not simply that cultures clash, but how and why they did so at a specific historical moment should be a principal goal of historians of the modern Middle East. To historicize is to recognize that what is at stake today is no more a timeless civilizational clash between great monolithic blocs of people, between Islam and the West, than it was when American missionaries first embarked on their fantastic errand to convert the world. For far too long historians of American missions to the Orient? indeed, historians of Western intellectual influence on the Middle East more generally?have allowed a central, unstated assumption to stand unchallenged. In thinking about the problem of liberalism in the Middle East, they have often accepted or assumed a narrative of Enlightenment in a supposedly emancipated West.

Keywords: American missionaries; cultures clash; Islam; liberalism; modern Middle East; Western intellectual influence



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