The Best American History Essays on Lincoln


This new volume in the Best American History Essays series brings together classic writing from top American historians on one of our greatest presidents. Ranging from incisive assessments of his political leadership, to explorations of his enigmatic character, to reflections on the mythos that has become inseparable from the man, each of these contributions expands our understanding of Abraham Lincoln and shows why he has been such an object ...

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This new volume in the Best American History Essays series brings together classic writing from top American historians on one of our greatest presidents. Ranging from incisive assessments of his political leadership, to explorations of his enigmatic character, to reflections on the mythos that has become inseparable from the man, each of these contributions expands our understanding of Abraham Lincoln and shows why he has been such an object of enduring fascination.

Contributions include:

* James McPherson on Lincoln the military strategist

* Richard Hofstadter on the Lincoln legend

* Edmund Wilson on his contribution to American letters

* John Hope Franklin on the Emancipation Proclamation

* James Horton on Lincoln and race

* David M. Potter on the secession

* Richard Current on Lincoln's political genius

* Mark Neely on Lincoln and civil liberties

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Fascinating . . . It brings together a kind of Platonic ideal of a scholarly Lincoln dinner party. The guests include Richard Hofstadter, James McPherson, David Herbert Donald, John Hope Franklin and—to ensure a boisterous, unpredictable evening—Edmund Wilson."

Los Angeles Times

"A must-read for Lincoln addicts."

Boston Globe

"Are you ready for all Lincoln all the time? Do you worry that you’ll need some help in cutting through the bicentennial blather? If you’re looking for a quick refresher . . . try The Best American History Essays on Lincoln . . . impeccable scholarship and deliberate judgment on display throughout."

The New York Observer

"Intelligent . . . This compendium of Lincoln essays boasts some of the biggest names in The Business (The Business of Writing About History, that is) . . ."

Chicago Tribune

"This collection assembles 11 essays that are vigorously argued, well-written opinions about Lincoln the person and Lincoln the politician. Readers of popular Lincolnalia will be intrigued by this tome's sampling of professional historians' perspectives on the sixteenth U.S. president."


"Princeton professor Wilentz has selected the best essays on Lincoln from World War II to the present. The selection is an interesting cross between the respectful and the skeptical, ranging from historians such as Richard Hofstadter . . . to biographers like David Herbert Donald."


"Sean Wilentz has assembled some of the finest writing on Lincoln by the last two generations of historians. The book offers a marvellous starting point for understanding Lincoln and his career."

—Eric Foner

"In their own time, these provocative and highly original essays sliced their way toward cutting-edge reappraisal of Abraham Lincoln. They have not only 'long endured,' but like well-stored wine, have deservedly evolved into must-have classics, well worth a second and third appraisal. It is both a valuable service to historians and a welcome treat for readers everywhere to welcome back this all-star roster of scholars, often at the top of their form, in one irresistible volume."

—Harold Holzer, Co-Chairman, U. S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Publishers Weekly
In this special edition of their annual Best American History Essays, the Organization of American Historians tasked Princeton University professor Wilentz to collect the best of Lincoln scholarship from the past 60 years. Each of the eleven essays come from a noted historian considering the 16th President from a different angle; included are Richard Hofstadter on Lincoln the self-made myth, Jean H. Baker on Lincoln the husband, John Hope Franklin on Lincoln the decider, Richard N. Current on Lincoln the "master politician," and James Oliver Horton on Lincoln the "strange, friendless, uneducated, penniless boy." Wilentz organizes the material in themes-general overview, the private man, the public figure, and the commander-in-chief-and, though some of the writing can be dry and dense, manages to stave off redundancy. Full of closely-observed commentary and genuine insight, this roundup with be appreciated most by students and serious armchair historians.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230609143
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 12/23/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 759,277
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Sean Wilentz is the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University. He regularly writes on history and politics for publications such as The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, and His most recent book is The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. He lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Sean Wilentz Wilentz, Sean

I General Appraisals

1 Abraham Lincoln and the Self-Made Myth Richard Hofstadter Hofstadter, Richard 3

2 Abraham Lincoln Edmund Wilson Wilson, Edmund 41

3 Naturally Anti-Slavery: Lincoln, Race, and the Complexity of American Liberty James Oliver Horton Horton, James Oliver 63

II The Private Lincoln

4 A Strange, Friendless, Uneducated, Penniless Boy David Herbert Donald Donald, David Herbert 87

5 Mary and Abraham: A Marriage Jean H. Baker Baker, Jean H. 107

III Lincoln the Politician

6 The Master Politician Richard N. Current Current, Richard N. 129

7 The Origins and Purpose of Lincoln's "House-Divided" Speech Don E. Fehrenbacher Fehrenbacher, Don E. 149

8 Why the Republicans Rejected Both Compromise and Secession David M. Potter Potter, David M. 175

IV Lincoln, the Presidency, and the Civil War

9 The Emancipation Proclamation: The Decision and the Writing John Hope Franklin Franklin, John Hope 191

10 Lincoln and the Strategy of Unconditional Surrender James M. McPherson McPherson, James M. 207

11 Lincoln and the Constitution Mark E. Neely, Jr. Neely, Mark E., Jr. 229

Selected Bibliography 245

Contributors 247

Index 249

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Not just another book on Lincoln

    If you like Lincoln but don't have the time to read Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin, or Abraham Lincoln by McPherson, or Lincoln by David Herbert Donald this will give you some insight and historical facts about a great man.

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