Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Two Volume Set)

Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Two Volume Set)

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

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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.

Volume 1 covers Lincoln’s early childhood, his experiences as a farm boy in Indiana and Illinois, his legal training, and the political ambition that led to a term in Congress in the 1840s. In volume 2, Burlingame examines Lincoln’s life during his presidency and the Civil War, narrating in fascinating detail the crisis over Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s own battles with relentless office seekers, hostile newspaper editors, and incompetent field commanders. Burlingame also offers new interpretations of Lincoln’s private life, discussing his marriage to Mary Todd and the untimely deaths of two sons to disease.

But through it all—his difficult childhood, his contentious political career, a fratricidal war, and tragic personal losses—Lincoln preserved a keen sense of humor and acquired a psychological maturity that proved to be the North’s most valuable asset in winning the Civil War.

Published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, this landmark publication establishes Burlingame as the most assiduous Lincoln biographer of recent memory and brings Lincoln alive to modern readers as never before.

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Editorial Reviews

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).
New York Times
A magisterial enterprise.

— William Safire

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

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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.

— Jane Henderson

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

— Diane Cole

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

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

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

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.
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.
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).

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.

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).

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801889936
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
02/24/2009
Edition description:
20
Pages:
2008
Sales rank:
415,584
Product dimensions:
7.50(w) x 10.60(h) x 4.80(d)
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.

Kenneth J. Winkle, University of Nebraska--Lincoln

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.

Gerald J. Prokopowicz, East Carolina University

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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 a number of 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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