A first major work of history on a crucial but under-examined topic, Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith explores the role of religion in American foreign policy. From the first colonists to the presidents of the 21st Century, Andrew Preston's unparalleled study show us how religion has always shaped America's relationships with other nations, and what to expect in the future.
During the presidency of George W. Bush, many Americans and others around the world viewed the entrance of religion into foreign policy discourse, especially with regard to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as a "new" development. But despite the official division between church and state, the presence of religion in American foreign policy has been a constant since before the Founding Fathers. Yet aside from leaders known to be personally religious, such as Bush, Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson, few realize how central faith has always been to American governance and diplomacy--and indeed to the idea of America itself. In Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith, Andrew Preston starts at the beginning, and with revelatory findings, shows us how and why.
Andrew Preston teaches American history and international relations history at Cambridge University, where he is a fellow of Clare College. Before Cambridge, he taught history and international studies at Yale University. Born in Ontario, he has also taught at universities in Canada and Switzerland, and has been a fellow at the Cold War Studies Program at the London School of Economics. He is the author of The War Council: McGeorge Bundy, The NSC, and Vietnam.
WINNER 2012 – Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction
FINALIST 2012 – Cundill Prize in History at McGill
LONGLISTED 2012 – BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction
LONGLISTED 2013 – Lionel Gelber Prize
“Masterful…. All written with a style that further distinguishes Preston in a domain as deficient in literary grace as in candour. Preston excels in portraits of the people at the heart of the matter…. Brilliant.”
—The Globe and Mail
“A crisply written account hefty in both scope and intellect…. A work that will define the field for a generation to come. Nobody who writes about religion and American foreign policy will be able to do so without engaging [Preston]. And anybody who wants to understand American foreign policy—both then and now—would be wise to do so, too.”
—The Christian Science Monitor
“A sharp, clear, deeply researched examination.... Preston explores [a] fascinating paradox.... A frank, exhaustive, marvelously readable study.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Reading this book is a thrilling intellectual adventure: it challenges received ideas at the same time as it throws light on buried, troubling perplexities and changes the way we view not only the United States but the rest of the world. Erudite, balanced and respectful, it could not be more timely and should be required reading for policy-makers, concerned citizens, atheists and religious alike.”
—Karen Armstrong, author of A History of God
“There have been a number of good books on particular aspects of religion and American foreign policy. But no one before Andrew Preston has written such a thoroughly researched, consistently insightful, and ideologically balanced general history of this timely, important, but strangely under-studied subject. This splendid book makes a major contribution in its own right, but also opens up an entire field for much-needed further study.”
—Mark Noll, author of America’s God
“In this landmark work, Andrew Preston sheds light on a critical element of the American experience: the role of religion in our relationship to the world. Faith is one of the most influential factors in our national life, and Preston’s excellent book gives religion its due as a force that shapes who we are, what wars we fight, and which causes we make our own.”
—Jon Meacham, author of American Lion