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Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy by Robert D. Woodberry

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By davidfor7
Words 26573
Pages 107
American Political Science Review

Vol. 106, No. 2

May 2012


The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy

National University of Singapore


his article demonstrates historically and statistically that conversionary Protestants (CPs) heavily influenced the rise and spread of stable democracy around the world. It argues that CPs were a crucial catalyst initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, thereby creating the conditions that made stable democracy more likely. Statistically, the historic prevalence of Protestant missionaries explains about half the variation in democracy in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania and removes the impact of most variables that dominate current statistical research about democracy. The association between Protestant missions and democracy is consistent in different continents and subsamples, and it is robust to more than 50 controls and to instrumental variable analyses.

ocial scientists tend to ignore religion in the processes of post-Enlightenment modernization. In individual cases and events, the role of religious actors is clear—especially in the primary documents.
Yet in broad histories and comparative analyses, religious groups are pushed to the periphery, only to pop out like a jack-in-the-box from time to time to surprise and scare people and then shrink back into their box to let the important historical changes be directed by “secular” actors and forces (Butler 2004). Yet integrating religious actors and motivations into narratives about the rise and spread of both Western modernity and democracy helps solve perennial problems that plague current research.
In fact, most research on democracy and other macro historical changes has…...

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