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Latourette, Kenneth Scott


Professor of Missions and Oriental History at Yale University (192153); b. Oregon City, OR, 9 Aug. 1884;d. there, 26 Dec. 1968. After serving for approximately a year on the faculty of Yale in China at Changsha, he returned to the United States and taught at Reed College (191416), Denison University (191621), and finally at Yale where he also became chairman of the religion department and director of graduate studies. He was recipient of a number of honorary doctorates, and served as president of the American Society of Church History and the American Historical Association. In 195l, he was elected President of the American Baptist Convention.

From the moment he responded to the call of the Student Volunteer Movement and became a missionary, his life was dominated by a concern for missions. Motivated by this deep concern, Latourette became a pioneer in both the history of missions and East Asian history. His work in both these areas opened a new phase in historical studies, and many of his more than eighty monographs and numerous articles continue as standard, authoritative works. His major work is a seven volume History of The Expansion of Christianity, completed in 1945.

Latourette has often been criticized for being a "tireless chronicler," excessively imbued with a concern for "objective" history, and lacking depth theologically. Though there is truth to these criticisms, it must be remembered that his historiographical method was the product of his age. It must also be pointed out that Latourette was trained as a historian, not a theologian. Although his historical treatment was governed more by sociological than theological considerations, he clearly made an invaluable contributionperhaps more than any other U.S. scholarto ground Christianity in universal history.

Bibliography: w. c. harr, ed., Frontiers of the Christian World Mission since 1938: Essays in Honor of Kenneth Scott Latourette (New York 1962). k. s. latourette, Beyond the Ranges: An Autobiography (Grand Rapids 1967). l. moore, jr., "Beyond the RangesThe Autobiography of Kenneth Scott Latourette," Hartford Quarterly Review 8.4 (Summer 1968) 7795. w.r. hogg, "Kenneth Scott Latourette 18841968: Interpreter of the Expansion of Christianity," in Mission Legacies: Biographical Studies of Leaders of the Modern Missionary Movement, eds. g.h. anderson et al, (Maryknoll, 1994), 41627. a. pfeiffer, "Kenneth Scott Latourette: A Description and Assessment of His Historical Analysis of the Spread of Christianity in the First Five Centuries," Logia 7 (1998) 1924.

[j. k. luoma]

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