Abraham Lincoln: A Life

Abraham Lincoln: A Life

3.3 83
by Michael Burlingame
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

William Safire
…a magisterial enterprise…
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Signature

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).

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U.S. News & World Report - Diane Cole
A complete view of Lincoln's life... thorough.

New York Times - William Safire
A magisterial enterprise.

Gazette - Greg Rienzi
An exhaustive and stylishly written biography.

Grand Rapids Press - Anne Byle
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.

Washington Times - James L. Swanson
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.

Atlantic Monthly - Christopher Hitchens
No review could do complete justice to the magnificent two-volume biography that has been so well-wrought by Michael Burlingame.

New York Review of Books - James McPherson
The author knows more about Lincoln than any other living person.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - Jane Henderson
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.

American Spectator - Andrew Ferguson
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.

American Spectator
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.

— Andrew Ferguson

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
These monumental volumes deserve a wide readership.

Choice

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.

Atlantic Monthly
No review could do complete justice to the magnificent two-volume biography that has been so well-wrought by Michael Burlingame.

— Christopher Hitchens

Washington Times
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.

— James L. Swanson

Books and Culture: A Christian Review
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).

New York Review of Books
The author knows more about Lincoln than any other living person.

Chicago Tribune
If you aspire to Ultimate Lincoln Knowledge this is a must-read.

New York Times
A magisterial enterprise.

— William Safire

Grand Rapids Press
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.

— Anne Byle

Gazette
An exhaustive and stylishly written biography.

— Greg Rienzi

Time.com
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 learning—Burlingame may know more about Lincoln and his era than anyone in the world—his 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.

Bloomberg News
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.

U.S. News & World Report
A complete view of Lincoln's life... thorough.

— Diane Cole

Atlantic - Mark Bowden
A monumental and meticulous two-volume study of the 16th president... should be required reading for anyone seriously interested in Lincoln.

Blue and Gray Magazine - Ethan S. Rafuse
Lincoln has, of course, been the subject of an extensive body of literature due to the unquestioned importance of his presidency, his remarkable rise from frontier hardship to commander in chief, and his composition of some of the great works of American statesmanship. Burlingame describes all of this in such an impressive fashion that even readers already very well-versed on Lincoln's life and the Civil War will find much of value here... Burlingame has set a very high bar for future students of the Great Emancipator... It is unlikely that [a study] will appear anytime soon that matches the breadth and depth of coverage found in Burlingame's study, or challenges its place as the outstanding multi-volume account of Lincoln's life.

Books & Culture: A Christian Review
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).

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781421410685
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
11/06/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
1048
Sales rank:
358,623
File size:
6 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

"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."—Doris Kearns Goodwin

"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

Kenneth J. Winkle
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.

Doris Kearns Goodwin
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.

Gerald J. Prokopowicz
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.

Meet the Author

Michael Burlingame is Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield. He is the author or editor of several books about Lincoln, including Lincoln Observed: Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks, published by Johns Hopkins, and The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln.

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Abraham Lincoln: A Life 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 83 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is by far the best biography of Lincoln.
Blues More than 1 year ago
If your looking for the most comprehensive biography of Abraham Lincoln, then this set is for you. I have found the test highly readable, and engrossing. My only complaint about this edition is it's binding. I think the binding is a bit thin in relation to it's size and weight, but that's just me. Otherwise, a biography of this depth was needed and Michael Burlingame satisfied that need.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous 13 hours ago
This is by far the best Lincoln bio I have read. The author (a known Lincoln scholar) goes into great detail about the nations 16th president from his early days as a forced laborer for his father until his dark, stormy days as commander in chief. The author details Lincoln's struggles with depression, finances and his deep resentment toward's his father that he carried throughout his life. The set is expensive but well worth the money for anyone wanting to learn more about the man that changed the course of a nation. I read several other reviews on the binding being faulty, however, I have had no issues with my set, I packed them daily in my bag for several months while reading them with no issues at all. I highly recommend this set for all. Happy reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not a quick read. Very thorough. Well written
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Nexium More than 1 year ago
These two volumes perhaps deserve a 4 or 5 star rating based on content. I am a collector of books on Abraham Lincoln. And I surely would have done without this one. First and formost, these volumes have the cheepest binding of any book I have ever bought. I'm almost afraind of reading the books, as it appears that the books will fall apart. That must be why the pare of books come in a slip case, to hold all together once read. And at $125.00 this review deserves one-half star! Previous commentators have hit-it-on-the-head. Wait for a better binding and a 3 to 4 volume set. Or if Johns Hopkins isn't going to improve it, wait until you see it on the discount shelves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
wabIA More than 1 year ago
This is a very well written, thoroughly researched tome. A must have for Lincoln enthusiasts.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
debsdj More than 1 year ago
There really is no fluff in this set. The author accurately describes the mood and reality of the times. His depiction is "neutral"...no bad guys or good guys, just the way it was. But, this is not leasure reading. This set is for folks who truely enjoy HISTORY, not a story containing historical facts.
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CaptHerp More than 1 year ago
Author Michael Burlingame has done an excellent job of assembling material here for possibly the best Lincoln biography to come along since people started writing about our 16th president. Newly-discovered material, or recently-released material, adds to the coverage in the book. I can't recommend this set enough. Fastest read through a large multi-volume set I've ever experienced, as it is interesting throughout. If you have only one work on Lincoln in your home library, I'd suggest this one.
Dundalk More than 1 year ago
I read the available reviews of the Burlingame Lincoln on BN.com before ordering a set, and at the time there was only one review that mentioned the flimsiness of the binding. I took a chance anyway and was very disappointed. The binding is indeed flimsy, to the point that the text block on volume 2 of my set was pulling away from the spine. The covers are light in weight and the whole thing just lacks the sort of solidity and permanence that one would expect of a major historical work from a university press. I didn't think the books would hold up to one reading, let alone a lifetime of reference and re-reading. For the price charged this is a shame. I took the set back to my local Barnes & Noble and got a refund. This is a shame, because I've read great things about this biography, and I would dearly love to read it. Paging through the two volumes and reading passages from them before reluctantly returning the set I could see that Mr. Burlingame did an impressive job. It is unfortunate that his publisher let him down. I would recommend that readers looking for a good - if much shorter - Lincoln biography pick up a copy of "A. Lincoln" by Ronald C. White, Jr. It is a new biography that also takes advantage of the latest research on Lincoln and has received rave reviews from the academic community and the popular press. It is well written and really held my interest. Readers who want to read one good biography of this fascinating man should be well pleased with Mr. White's book.
BIOfan More than 1 year ago
The read is great and inspiring, Mr. Burlingame did a wonderful job. However; The book should have been put together better. There are many pages that were wrinkled or creased during binding, this to the point that, I almost returned these two great books.
BalancingBen More than 1 year ago
Burlingame fills in the blanks so that Lincoln is a man that stugggled just like you and I. Being hated during his presidency when he was alive is a stark contrast to how many view him now. THis book is about more than Lincoln the martyr,
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