The New York Times
Abraham Lincoln: A Lifeby Michael Burlingame
In the first multi-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln to be published in decades, Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame offers a fresh look at the life of one of America’s greatest presidents. Incorporating the field notes of earlier biographers, along with decades of research in multiple manuscript archives and long-neglected newspapers, this remarkable work… See more details below
In the first multi-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln to be published in decades, Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame offers a fresh look at the life of one of America’s greatest presidents. Incorporating the field notes of earlier biographers, along with decades of research in multiple manuscript archives and long-neglected newspapers, this remarkable work will both alter and reinforce current understanding of America’s sixteenth president.
In volume 2, Burlingame examines Lincoln’s presidency and the trials of the Civil War. He supplies fascinating details on the crisis over Fort Sumter and the relentless office seekers who plagued Lincoln. He introduces readers to the president’s battles with hostile newspaper editors and his quarrels with incompetent field commanders. Burlingame also interprets Lincoln’s private life, discussing his marriage to Mary Todd, the untimely death of his son Willie to disease in 1862, and his recurrent anguish over the enormous human costs of the war.
Johns Hopkins University Press
The New York Times
Reviewed by James L. Swanson
Between this fall and the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth in February 2009, publishers will overwhelm bookstores and readers alike with a flood of more than 60 titles on the ever-popular president. One can hardly keep track of them all: one certainly cannot read them all. Of the dozens of these books competing for attention, a few stand out, foremost among them this title.
The trend in Lincoln scholarship has been away from the magisterial narrative comprehensiveness of Carl Sandburg in favor of a narrow, deep dive resulting in the so-called "slice" book: thus entire volumes about one magnificent speech; a key incident; the deepest crisis; the most pivotal year; and so on. A number of these works have merit, but have failed to capture a wide, popular audience.
Abraham Lincoln: A Life is the antithesis of a thin slice from the Lincoln pie. In the sweeping style of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, Burlingame has produced the finest Lincoln biography in more than 60 years and one of the two or three best Lincoln books on any subject in a generation.
A distinguished scholar who probably knows more about Abraham Lincoln and his world than anyone else alive, Burlingame has devoted the last quarter century to editing 11 books on the Lincoln primary sources, including the writings of the president's secretaries John Hay, John Nicolay and William Stoddard. Now Burlingame has produced the most meticulously researched Lincoln biography ever written. He resurrected Lincoln's lost early journalism, when the young prairie politician-little more than an immature, unscrupuloushack-wrote more than 200 anonymous op-eds; Burlingame scoured thousands of 19th-century newspapers and discovered hitherto unknown stories; he read hundreds of oral histories, unpublished letters, and journals from Lincoln's contemporaries; and he re-examined the vast manuscript collections at the Library of Congress and National Archives. Burlingame's astonishing chapters covering Lincoln's hard early years and his difficult marriage, and his fresh insights on the profound crisis that made Lincoln great, are worth the price of the book.
Do not let the intimidating length or the formidable price deter you. The book need not be read in one sitting. Each part stands alone. Burlingame's Lincoln comes alive as the author unfolds vast amounts of new research while breathing new life into familiar stories. This is a critical, skeptical, loving but never fawning tribute to the man Burlingame praises for "achiev[ing] a level of psychological maturity unmatched in the history of American public life."
This book supplants Sandburg and supersedes all other biographies. Future Lincoln books cannot be written without it, and from no other book can a general reader learn so much about Abraham Lincoln. It is the essential title for the bicentennial. (Nov.)
James L. Swanson is the author of Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer. His next book is Chasing Lincoln's Killer (Scholastic, Feb. 2009).Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A monumental and meticulous two-volume study of the 16th president... should be required reading for anyone seriously interested in Lincoln.
The bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth has generated a plethora of Lincoln-related items, but none impresses more than this two-volume biography... Essential.
A complete view of Lincoln's life... thorough.
A magisterial enterprise.
An exhaustive and stylishly written biography.
The two-volume set is being heralded as the ultimate new biography of Lincoln, an essential work to be used by all future biographers of the 16th president.
The granddaddy of all the recent books [on Lincoln] is Michael Burlingame's Abraham Lincoln: A Life... monumental in size, depth and scholarship, this is the new standard biography of our time and surpasses all other life portraits of our 16th president, and is the most important book of the bicentennial.
No review could do complete justice to the magnificent two-volume biography that has been so well-wrought by Michael Burlingame.
The author knows more about Lincoln than any other living person.
This magisterial work tells a rich, thoroughly documented, birth-to-death story of America's greatest president. Its bulk is formidable, but it holds countless rewards for undaunted readers.
Burlingame very likely knows more about Lincoln than anyone who's ever lived, including Mary Todd, and his biography, 20 years in the writing, has a revelation on every page, dug out during the biographer's tireless research into musty libraries and forgotten attics that no one has ever thought to look in before. If there is anything knowable that you want to know about Lincoln, this is the place to find it.
These monumental volumes deserve a wide readership.
James L. Swanson
Most thorough account of the development of Lincoln as a man and politician against the backdrop of America's struggle to mature as an idea and a nation... Not a Lincoln for our times, but the Lincoln of his times, and future biographers would do well to take note(s).
If you aspire to Ultimate Lincoln Knowledge this is a must-read.
Burlingame is a towering figure in Lincoln scholarship, and students of the 16th president have been waiting for this book for years. For all his learningBurlingame may know more about Lincoln and his era than anyone in the worldhis take on his subject is fresh, and he doesn't gloss over Lincoln's less appealing attributes. Abraham Lincoln comes as close to being the definitive biography as anything the world has seen in decades.
A monumental boxed effort that weighs in at 10 pounds... The result is a picture of Lincoln from all sides, in a style that is relentless but not daunting.
- Johns Hopkins University Press
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What People are saying about this
"The remarkable breadth of Burlingame's research has resulted in a book unlike anything else written about Lincoln. It will be a major contribution to the field."—Gerald J. Prokopowicz, East Carolina University
"Burlingame has developed a familiarity with the details of Lincoln's life that is truly authoritative, even definitive, and he has genuinely earned his reputation for knowing more about Lincoln than just about anyone who has ever studied him."—Kenneth J. Winkle, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Burlingame has developed a familiarity with the details of Lincoln's life that is truly authoritative, even definitive, and he has genuinely earned his reputation for knowing more about Lincoln than just about anyone who has ever studied him.
Kenneth J. Winkle, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Lincoln scholars have waited anxiously for this book for decades. Its triumphant publication proves it was well worth the wait. Few scholars have written with greater insight about the psychology of Lincoln. No one in recent history has uncovered more fresh sources than Michael Burlingame. This profound and masterful portrait will be read and studied for years to come.
The remarkable breadth of Burlingame's research has resulted in a book unlike anything else written about Lincoln. It will be a major contribution to the field.
Gerald J. Prokopowicz, East Carolina University
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This is the greatest comprehensive work on Abraham Lincoln ever researched and written. Michael Burlingame brings accurate understanding to many important subjects about Lincoln, or within Lincoln’s life, where previous biographers had drawn incorrect conclusions. Michael Burlingame has uncovered a large volume of new material about Lincoln, obviously over many years of research. He also identifies and analyzes numerous primary source materials that have been overlooked by previous scholars.
This is by far the best biography of Lincoln.
This work, in two volumes, shows that Michael Burlingame is, as has been alleged, the most knowledgeable person alive today about Abraham Lincoln. While there are facets of his life not included in his biography, he hits the important. If you don't know Abraham Lincoln after reading this two volume work, you never will.