Long before oil interests shaped American interaction with the Middle East, the U.S. had a strong influence on the late Ottoman and post-Ottoman region. Covering the period from approximately 1800 to the 1970s, Hans-Lukas Kieser’s compelling Nearest East tells the story of this intimate, identity-building relationship between the U.S. and the Near East.
Kieser chronicles how American missionaries worked to implement their belief in Biblical millennialism, enlightened modernity, and a modern Zion-Israel. Millennialism was part of an American identity that constituted itself religiously in the interaction with and the representation of the “cradle of Zion.” As such, "going Near East" was—at least to American evangelical Protestants—in some ways more important than colonizing the American West. However, many Ottoman Muslims felt threatened by the American missionaries perceiving their successful institutions as an estranging challenge from the outside.
Measuring the long twisted road from the missionary Zion-builders of the early 19th century to the privileged US-Israeli partnership in the late 20th century, Nearest East looks carefully on both sides of the relationship. Kieser uses a wide range of Ottoman, Turkish, French, German and other sources, unfamiliar to most Anglophone readers, to tell this story that will appeal to historians of all stripes.