Recent Works by Our Researchers | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Recent Works by Our Researchers

The Presbyterian Historical Society’s holdings support scholarship on a vast range of topics. On this page, we present a selection of recent publications by researchers who have worked with our collections.

For additional works focused on LGBTQIA+ history in the PC(USA), see the Pam Byers Memorial Collection page. 

Missionary Diplomacy: Religion and Nineteenth-Century American Foreign Relations, by Emily Conroy-Krutz (Cornell University Press, March 2024)

Cover image for Missionary DiplomacyMissionary Diplomacy illuminates the crucial place of religion in nineteenth-century American diplomacy. From the 1810s through the 1920s, Protestant missionaries positioned themselves as key experts in the development of American relations in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and the Middle East. Missionaries served as consuls, translators, and occasional trouble-makers who forced the State Department to take actions it otherwise would have avoided. Yet as decades passed, more Americans began to question the propriety of missionaries' power. Were missionaries serving the interests of American diplomacy? Or were they creating unnecessary problems?

As Emily Conroy-Krutz demonstrates, they were doing both. Across the century, missionaries forced the government to articulate new conceptions of the rights of US citizens abroad and of the role of the US as an engine of humanitarianism and religious freedom. By the time the US entered the first world war, missionary diplomacy had for nearly a century created the conditions for some Americans to embrace a vision of their country as an internationally engaged world power. Missionary Diplomacy exposes the longstanding influence of evangelical missions on the shape of American foreign relations.

A Theology of Brotherhood: The Federal Council of Churches and the Problem of Race, by Curtis J. Evans (New York University Press, February 2024)

Cover image for A Theology of BrotherhoodA Theology of Brotherhood explores how the national umbrella Christian organization, the Federal Council of Churches, acted as a crucial conduit and organizational force for the dissemination of “progressive” views on race in the first half of the twentieth century. Drawing on years of archival research, Curtis J. Evans shows that the Council’s theological approach to race, and in particular its anti-lynching campaign, were responsible for meaningful progress in some white Protestant churches on racial issues. The book highlights the contributions that their religious vision made in expanding and propagating a civic nationalist tradition that was grounded in a “universal brotherhood” and belief in the equality of all human beings, over against a racial nationalist ideology that conceived of America in ethno-racial terms. Evans makes the case that this predominantly white religious organization contributed a distinctive religious voice to visions of a pluralistic democracy, racial and ethnic diversity, and social and political reform. The volume adds a missing voice to the literature on lynching in the early twentieth century, which tends to focus primarily on the NAACP and other secular organizations.

Through Middle Eastern Eyes: A Life of Kenneth E. Bailey, by Michael Parker (Wipf and Stock, February 2024)

Cover image for Through Middle Eastern EyesKenneth E. Bailey was both a missionary and a New Testament scholar. As a missionary, first in Egypt and later in Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, and Cyprus, he experienced firsthand the life of traditional Middle Eastern villagers, which led him to the conclusion that the village culture he witnessed in the twentieth century had hardly changed since the first century. Consequently, he was able to reinterpret Jesus's parables and life experiences through this traditional culture. In a remarkable series of acclaimed books, which include The Cross and the Prodigal, Jacob and the Prodigal, and Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes, Bailey showed that Jesus was the first mind of the New Testament who used story and metaphor to challenge the leaders of his day in ways often unappreciated by contemporary readers. Through Middle Eastern Eyes explains the origins of Bailey's key ideas and recounts his often fraught missionary career--one that included the austere and the sometimes harsh life in the simple villages of Upper Egypt, the perils of life in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), and being evacuated four times during the military conflicts in the region--that made possible his groundbreaking insights into the New Testament.

To Educate American Indians: Selected Writings from the National Educational Association's Department of Indian Education, 1900–1904, edited by Larry C. Skogen (University of Nebraska Press, February 2024)

Cover image for To Education American IndiansTo Educate American Indians presents the most complete versions of papers presented at the National Educational Association’s Department of Indian Education meetings during a time when the debate about how best to “civilize” Indigenous populations dominated discussions. During this time two philosophies drove the conversation. The first, an Enlightenment era–influenced universalism, held that through an educational alchemy American Indians would become productive, Christianized Americans, distinguishable from their white neighbors only by the color of their skin. Directly confronting the assimilationists’ universalism were the progressive educators who, strongly influenced by the era’s scientific racism, held the notion that American Indians could never become fully assimilated. Despite these differing views, a frightening ethnocentrism and an honor-bound dedication to “gifting” civilization to Native students dominated the writings of educators from the NEA’s Department of Indian Education.

For a decade educators gathered at annual meetings and presented papers on how best to educate Native students. Though the NEA Proceedings published these papers, strict guidelines often meant they were heavily edited before publication. In this volume Larry C. Skogen presents many of these unedited papers and gives them historical context for the years 1900 to 1904.

Orthodox Christians and the Rights Revolution in America, by A.G. Roeber (Fordham University Press, January 2024)

From the civil rights movement of the 1950s to the “culture wars” of North America, commentators have identified the partisans bent on pursuing different “rights” claims. When religious identity surfaces as a key determinant in how the pursuit of rights occurs, both “the religious right” and “liberal” believers remain the focus of how each contributes to making rights demands. How Ortho­dox Christians in North America have navigated the “rights revolution,” however, remains largely unknown. From the disagreements over the rights of the First Peoples of Alaska to arguments about the rights of transgender persons, Orthodox Christians have engaged an anglo-American legal and constitutional rights tradition. But they see rights claims through the lens of an inherited focus on the dignity of the human person.

In a pluralistic society and culture, Orthodox Christians, both converts and those with family roots in Orthodox countries, share with non-Orthodox fellow citizens the challenge of reconcil­ing conflicting rights claims. Those claims do pit “religious liberty” rights claims against perceived dangers from outside the Orthodox Church. But internal disagreements about the rights of clergy and people within the Church accompany the Orthodox Christian engagement with debates over gender, sex, and marriage as well as expanding political, legal, and human rights claims. Despite their small numbers, North American Orthodox remain highly visible and their struggles influential among the more than 280 million Orthodox worldwide. Orthodox Christians and the Rights Revolu­tion in America offers an historical analysis of this unfolding story.

Movies on a Mission: American Protestants and the Foreign Missionary Film, 1906-1956, by Glenn Reynolds (McFarland, September 2023)

Cover image for Movies on a MissionThis investigation into the little-known genre of mission-oriented films uncovers how Protestant missionaries overseas sought to bring back motion picture footage from remote parts of the world. In the broader religious community, mission films aimed to educate congregants back home about efforts to evangelize communities around the world. Movies on a Mission, however, demonstrates the larger impact of mission films on American visual culture. The evolution and development of the genre is highlighted from an early emphasis on "foreign views" in the 1910s, to interwar films providing a more detailed look at how mission stations functioned in far-flung lands, to Cold War productions which at times functioned as veritable propaganda tools parroting anti-communist discourse emanating from the CIA.

Famine Worlds: Life at the Edge of Suffering in Lebanon’s Great War, by Tylor Brand (Stanford University Press, August 2023)

Cover image for Famine WorldsWorld War I was a catastrophe for the lands that would become Lebanon. With war came famine, and with famine came unspeakable suffering, starvation, and mass death. For nearly four years the deadly crisis reshaped society, killing untold thousands and transforming how people lived, how they interacted, and even how they saw the world around them. Famine Worlds peers out at the famine through their eyes, from the wealthy merchants and the dwindling middle classes, to those perishing in the streets. Tylor Brand draws on memoirs, diaries, and correspondence to explore how people negotiated the famine and its traumas. Many observers depicted society in collapse—the starving poor became wretched victims and the well-fed became villains or heroes for the judgment of their peers. He shows how individual struggles had social effects. The famine altered beliefs and behaviors, and those in turn influenced social relationships, policies, and even the historical memory of generations to come. More than simply a chronicle of the Great Famine, however, Famine Worlds offers a profound meditation on what it means to live through such collective trauma, and how doing so shapes the character of a society. Brand shows that there are consequences to living amid omnipresent suffering and death. A crisis like the Great Famine is transformative in ways we cannot comprehend. It not only reshapes the lives and social worlds of those who suffer, it creates a particular rationality that touches the most fundamental parts of our being, even down to the ways we view and interact with each other. We often assume that if we were thrust into historic calamity that we would continue to behave compassionately. Famine Worlds questions such confidence, providing a lesson that could not be more timely.

Shadows of China: A Family's Lifelong Missionary Experience, a Son's Journal, and the Japanese Invasion of 1937, by Warren Rapelye White (Aforetimes Publishing, January 2023)

Cover image of Shadows of ChinaTwo young Virginians, Hugh White and Augusta Graves, traveled to China in the 1890s as Presbyterian missionaries. They met and married in China, and tried to bring help and hope to a poorly educated people locked in poverty in remote mission locations. To many of those Chinese, the missionaries were the first westerners they had ever seen. They had been taught that the newcomers were “foreign devils.” Hugh and Augusta ended up spending 47 years of their adult lives in China—facing war, disease, and hostility while teaching, raising a family, and experiencing joy and tragedy in the midst of beauty and turmoil. One of their sons, Hugh White Jr., who was raised in China, returned “home” to China in 1937 to see his parents, after completing his musical education in the United States. As his ship approached Shanghai, the passengers were informed that the city was under attack by the Japanese, and that the usual port arrival would not occur. Hugh was one of the few passengers who elected to be ferried into the city, despite the risks. After making his way to his parents in the mountain community of Kuling, he joined the faculty of Central China College (Huachung University) in Wuhan. This began his 4,000-mile journey to west China, near Tibet, and back, often under life-threatening wartime conditions, in advance of the Japanese armed forces. In Shadows of China, Hugh White Jr.’s son tells their story. It is sometimes charming and, at other times, chilling. Told through letters, historical images, and personal accounts, it brings to life a distant time and place and provides an insight into historical events as viewed from an intensely personal level.

The Allure of Empire: American Encounters with Asians in the Age of Transpacific Expansion and Exclusion, by Chris Suh (Oxford University Press, March 2023)

The Allure of Empire traces how American ideas about race in the Pacific were made and remade on the imperial stage before World War II. Following the Russo-Japanese War, the United States cultivated an amicable relationship with Japan based on the belief that it was a "progressive" empire akin to its own. Even as the two nations competed for influence in Asia and clashed over immigration issues in the American West, the mutual respect for empire sustained their transpacific cooperation until Pearl Harbor, when both sides disavowed their history of collaboration and cast each other as incompatible enemies.

In recovering this lost history, Chris Suh reveals the surprising extent to which debates about Korea shaped the politics of interracial cooperation. American recognition of Japan as a suitable partner depended in part on a positive assessment of its colonial rule of Korea. It was not until news of Japan's violent suppression of Koreans soured this perception that the exclusion of Japanese immigrants became possible in the United States. Central to these shifts in opinion was the cooperation of various Asian elites aspiring to inclusion in a "progressive" American empire. By examining how Korean, Japanese, and other nonwhite groups appealed to the United States, this book demonstrates that the imperial order sustained itself through a particular form of interracial collaboration that did not disturb the existing racial hierarchy.

Flora Macdonald: "Pretty Young Rebel": Her Life and Story, by Flora Fraser (Knopf, January 2023)

After his decisive defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, Prince Charles Edward Stuart was a man on the run. Seeking refuge in the Outer Hebrides, hoping to escape to France, he found an unlikely ally in Flora MacDonald, a young woman in her early twenties, loyal to the Stuarts. Disguising the prince as an Irish maid, petticoats and all, Flora conveyed Charles by boat to Skye, where they lodged safely with her family, until the prince’s inexpert handling of feminine attire caused concern, and he was persuaded to forgo the ruse before fleeing the area undetected. Flora never saw him again.

This famous incident led to Flora’s enduring appeal as a courageous Scottish heroine, inspiring and influencing countless novels, poems, and songs—most notably, the classic ballad “Skye Boat Song” adapted from a traditional tune in the late nineteenth century. But her remarkable life didn’t come to a close with her clandestine mission to Skye. Faced with a confession from one of the boatmen, Flora was arrested and taken to London on charges of treason, where under interrogation, she wittily deflected questions and staunchly defended her motives. She was eventually released under the 1747 Act of Indemnity, but disaster would befall her yet again: in 1774, Flora and her husband, Allan MacDonald, fled the impoverished highlands for a brighter future in Cross Creek, North Carolina—utterly unaware of the burgeoning revolution that would upend their lives there, with Allan imprisoned and Flora fleeing, penniless, back home to the Hebrides.

In this probing, evocative portrait of a tumultuous life, master historian Flora Fraser peels away the layers of misinformation, legend, and myth to reveal Flora MacDonald in full. Fraser presents a fascinating picture of this headstrong and irrepressible woman. As Samuel Johnson declared upon visiting her in Scotland, her name was “a name that will be mentioned in history, and if courage and fidelity be virtues, mentioned with honor.”

The Old Faith in a New Nation: American Protestants and the Christian Past, by Paul J. Gutacker (Oxford University Press, February 2023)

Cover image for The Old Faith in a New NationConventional wisdom holds that tradition and history meant little to nineteenth-century American Protestants, who relied on common sense and "the Bible alone." The Old Faith in a New Nation challenges this portrayal by recovering evangelical engagement with the Christian past. Even when they appeared to be most scornful toward tradition, most optimistic and forward-looking, and most confident in their grasp of the Bible, evangelicals found themselves returning, time and again, to Christian history. They studied religious historiography, reinterpreted the history of the church, and argued over its implications for the present. Between the Revolution and the Civil War, American Protestants were deeply interested in the meaning of the Christian past.

Paul J. Gutacker draws from hundreds of print sources-sermons, books, speeches, legal arguments, political petitions, and more-to show how ordinary educated Americans remembered and used Christian history. While claiming to rely on the Bible alone, antebellum Protestants frequently turned to the Christian past on questions of import: how should the government relate to religion? Could Catholic immigrants become true Americans? What opportunities and rights should be available to women? To African Americans? Protestants across denominations answered these questions not only with the Bible but also with history. By recovering the ways in which American evangelicals remembered and used Christian history, The Old Faith in a New Nation shows how religious memory shaped the nation and interrogates the meaning of "biblicism."

Good and Mad: Mainline Protestant Churchwomen, 1920-1980, by Margaret Bendroth (Oxford University Press, December 2022)

Cover image for Good and MadProviding a new, women-centered view of mainline Protestantism in the 20th century, Good and Mad explores the paradoxes and conflicting loyalties of liberal Protestant churchwomen who campaigned for human rights and global peace, worked for interracial cooperation, and opened the path to women's ordination, all while working within the confines of the church that denied them equality. Challenging the idea that change is only ever made by the loud, historian Margaret Bendroth interweaves vignettes of individual women who knew both the value of compromise and the cost of anger within a larger narrative that highlights the debts second-wave feminism owes to their efforts, even though these women would never have called themselves feminists.

This lively historical account explains not just how feminism finally took root in American mainline churches, but why the change was so long in coming. Through its complex examination of the intersections of faith, gender, and anger at injustice, Good and Mad will be invaluable to anyone interested in the history of gender and religion in America.

Christian Parenting: Wisdom and Perspectives from American History, by David P. Setran (Eerdmans, June 2022)

Cover image for Christian ParentingToday’s parenting guidance can sometimes feel timeless and inviolable—especially when it comes to the spiritual formation of children in Christian households. But even in the recent past, parenting philosophies have differed widely among Christians in ways that reflect the contexts from which they emerged.

In Christian Parenting, David Setran catalogs the varying ways American Protestants envisioned the task of childrearing in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Comparing two main historical time periods—the colonial era and the Victorian era—Setran uncovers common threads, opposing viewpoints, and the cultural and religious influences behind the dominant parenting “postures” of each era. The implications of his findings matter for today’s big questions about parenting:

  • Should children be viewed as basically good, in need of protection from corruption, or as fundamentally sinful, in need of moral correction?
  • How should parents address misbehavior?
  • Should a parent’s primary role be that of teacher, disciplinarian, or nurturer?
  • What importance should be attributed to devotions and prayer, church involvement, Sabbath-keeping, home decorating, and fun family activities?
  • What consideration should be given to gender? Should boys and girls be raised differently? Do mothers and fathers have essentially different responsibilities?


Please contact us to let us know about forthcoming publications. We will update the list periodically but will always aim for about a dozen books published within the last five years.