American Presidents: Critical Essays

Overview

What makes a president great?

Here is the ideal source for students, scholars, and the general public as we approach the 2000 presidential election. The American Presidents is a collection of articles that analyze and evaluate the presidential careers of the men who have occupied the office since its inception in 1789. In this volume, the leading presidential historians in the United States offer insights into what makes a president great, ...

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Overview

What makes a president great?

Here is the ideal source for students, scholars, and the general public as we approach the 2000 presidential election. The American Presidents is a collection of articles that analyze and evaluate the presidential careers of the men who have occupied the office since its inception in 1789. In this volume, the leading presidential historians in the United States offer insights into what makes a president great, mediocre, or--in the case of most of them--something in between.

The contributors to The American Presidents were not asked to write straightforward biographies of the presidents; other sources are available for that. Rather, they were asked to evaluate their subjects. No strict patterns were imposed by the editor; each author approached his or her subject in the way that best illustrated the strengths and weaknesses of the president under consideration.

Forty-one have held the office of president and all, in one way or another, were exceptional men. Some, like Andrew Jackson and Harry Truman, are usually thought of as representing the "common folk," but nothing was common about either of them. Each proved to be an extraordinary and singular politician able to rally and represent the country through the challenges of their times.

Some presidents had achieved brilliance in other fields (Ulysses Grant in the military and Herbert Hoover as an engineer and humanitarian, for example) but had presidencies that are considered unsuccessful. What accounts for this seeming paradox, in which insight, sensitivity, and competence suddenly become "nontransferable" when the man reaches the White House? This book offers the reader multiple perspectives on this and other issues.

Examination of the ways in which challenges affect presidential greatness

Theodore Roosevelt, a successful president by any standard, was acutely aware that the prosperity and peace the country enjoyed during his two terms in office would, ironically, prevent him from reaching the upper tier of greatness enjoyed by Washington and Lincoln. Afte he left office, he yearned to return in hope of finding the challenge that would seal his greatness. Earlier, in the late nineteenth century, the electorate placed competent men such as Rutherford B. Hayes, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison in the White House, but they are little remembered today. None faced earth-shaking challanges at home and abroad, and their presidencies slipped into obscurity.

Discussion of personal characteristics and presidential performance

For more than two centuries the presidency has proved a remarkably durable institution. Presidential personalities have varied widely from the patrician aloofness of Washington to the moody introspection of Lincoln to the noisy exuberance of Theodore Roosevelt. The articles inThe American Presidents consider the ways in which personality has affected performance.

Special features

*41 signed essays by the leading experts, illustrated with portraits of the presidents

*Selected bibliographies

*At-a-glance summaries of each president's achievements

*Useful charts and tables on cabinet members, first ladies, and vice presidents from Washington to Clinton

*Addresses and Web sites for major presidential libraries.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
The American Presidents presents a comprehensive collection of highly informative articles analyzing and evaluating the presidential careers of the men who have occupied the office since its inception in 1789 down to the present day. The contributors consider the nature of presidential greatness, examine the ways in which challenges affected presidential greatness, and discuss personal characteristics and presidential performance. Very ably edited by Melvin I. Urofsky, The American Presidents is an essential, core, benchmark reference title for students of American political history, the American presidency, and political science studies.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Melvin I. Urofsky is a professor of history at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. The author and editor of more than two dozen books and over one hundred articles, he edited the multi-volume Letters of Louis D. Brandeis(1972-1978) with David W. Levy. he is also the author of The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary(Garland, 1994) and of Division and Discord: The Supreme Court under Stone and Vinson, 1941-1953 (1997).
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