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Accidental Diplomats

Accidental Diplomats
American Missionaries and the Cold War in Africa
by: Phil Dow (Author) Foreword by Melani McAlister

Evangelicals in the Shadows of Global Conflict

In the twentieth century, a hidden chapter of the Cold War unfolded in Africa, shaped by American evangelical missionaries. Accidental Diplomats uncovers this lesser-known story, revealing how these missionaries’ quest to spread the gospel intersected with global geopolitics. Their spiritual mission had an unforeseen impact on the socio-political dynamics of the era.

This book offers a deep dive into the complex interplay of evangelical missions, African politics, and Cold War strategies. It explores the significant yet subtle role of faith in shaping international relations and cultural transformations in Congo, Ethiopia, and Kenya. The narrative brings to light key events and influential figures, unraveling the intricate web of religion and global power politics.

Accidental Diplomats is an enlightening read that challenges conventional Cold War narratives, spotlighting the often-overlooked influence of American evangelicals in shaping Africa’s political landscape during this tumultuous period. Providing a unique perspective on the intersections of faith, history, and international diplomacy during the Cold War, this book will be a valuable resource for scholars and lay readers alike.


  • Accidental Diplomats is a highly successful contribution to American diplomatic history, to the history of Protestant missions, and to the global history of the Christian project. The roles evangelical missionaries played in Cold War Ethiopia, Kenya, and Congo have never been explored with the range of archival sources and personal interviews that Philip Dow brings to the task. Wonderfully sensitive to the dynamic relationship between missionaries, government officials, and local populations, Dow has given us one of this generation’s most professionally rigorous and deeply enlightening studies of missionaries.

    David A. Hollinger, PhDProfessor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley, Author of Protestants Abroad 

  • Spanning a century of neglected history, three pivotal African countries, the vital yet oft-misunderstood work of American missionaries, and the crucible of the Cold War, Philip Dow has delivered a masterpiece of historical scholarship. He combines compelling characters, vivid stories, and subtle analysis to craft a persuasive and readable book.

    William Inboden, PhDProfessor and Director, Hamilton Center for Classical and Civic Education, University of Florida

  • After World War II, America’s political and diplomatic engagement with Africa grew dramatically in response to decolonization and the Cold War competition with the Soviet Union. American missionaries were instrumental in building ties and deepening relations between important communities on the African continent and the grassroots evangelical community in United States. Accidental Diplomats tells the captivating story of how ordinary Americans played an extraordinary role in enhancing the nation’s diplomatic and political presence throughout Africa. Thoroughly researched and clearly written, there is much that students of American foreign policy can learn from Dow’s engaging new book.

    Walter Russell MeadGlobal View Columnist, The Wall Street Journal Distinguished Fellow in Strategy and Statesmanship, Hudson Institute Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities, Bard College

  • Philip Dow has written a remarkable and compelling history of the relationship between American evangelical missionaries in Africa and the US state during the Cold War…what makes this a particularly important book is the fact that Dow brings together the advantages of an insider’s perspective—he engages deeply with the issues of conversion, community norms, and morality that were important to missionaries—with the rigor and critique of a first-class scholar.

    from the Foreword by Melani McAlisterProfessor of American Studies and International Affairs, George Washington University

Additional Details

  • Pages: 298
  • Publisher: William Carey Publishing
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publish Year: 2024
  • ISBN: 9781645085676
  • Vendor: William Carey Publishing