The Missionary's Son

Henry Luce both created and dominated a new form of national journalism between 1930 and 1960. Founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Life, and Fortune, he is best remembered for his 1941 Life essay "The American Century," a robust call for the United States to assume world power status.

Robert Herzstein, Carolina Research Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, offers in Henry R. Luce: A Political Portrait of the Man Who Created the American Century a detailed analysis of the ideological makeup and consequences of this essay. The results are mixed. Able discussions of Luce's use of his magazines to force political change and of symbolically important internal disputes among Time-Life editors are marred by a limited understanding of his subject's goals, a confused point of view, and repeated genuflections to contemporary ideological demands.

"America First" enthusiasts will find a full-blooded villain in Herzstein's portrait of Henry Luce. As early as 1920, the author reports, "Harry looked forward to helping America make the world safe for democracy, Christianity, and free enterprise." Financially supported by the wealthy Chicago widow Hattie McCormick and boosted by his Yale and Skull and Bones credentials. Luce sought to remake the world. "Isolationism" was his regular foe, and he hoped to use American...

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