James Madison: A Biography / Edition 1

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Overview

The best one volume biography of Madison’s life, Ketcham’s biography not only traces Madison’s career, it gives readers a sense of the man. As Madison said of his early years in Virginia under the study of Donald Robertson, who introduced him to thinkers like Montaigne and Montesquieu, "all that I have been in life I owe largely to that man." It also captures a side of Madison that is less rarely on display (including a portrait of the beautiful Dolley Madison).

University of Virginia Press

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Editorial Reviews

North Carolina Historical Review - Kellie Strickland

Ketcham's long-standing familiarity with Madison's life and times is evident in this accessible work...Ketcham has written an enjoyable and scholarly narrative that will no doubt be considered of great value to Montpelier's more serious visitors, as well as students, scholars, and general readers with an interest in the founding couple.

American Historical Review

"Madison's personality comes alive in these pages, his strengths and weaknesses of mind and character clearly outlined. His great services in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 are graphically portrayed. The analysis of his political theory, and of the way in which he sought to apply it to the establishment of of government under the Constitution, is excellent. The depiction of Jeffersonian and Madisonian foreign policy up to the outbreak of the War of 1812 is clear and succinct. This is an excellent biography.

Los Angeles Times

Utilizing the vast amount of source material made available in the last 30 years, Ketcham has captured the essential man in his times and in doing so has made him understandable for us in our own day.

Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

This single volume has provided a penetrating and highly readable biography which merits distinction as the best one-volume life of Madison yet written.

North Carolina Historical Review
Ketcham's long-standing familiarity with Madison's life and times is evident in this accessible work...Ketcham has written an enjoyable and scholarly narrative that will no doubt be considered of great value to Montpelier's more serious visitors, as well as students, scholars, and general readers with an interest in the founding couple.

— Kellie Strickland, North Carolina State University

Los Angeles Times
Utilizing the vast amount of source material made available in the last 30 years, Ketcham has captured the essential man in his times and in doing so has made him understandable for us in our own day.
American Historical Review
Madison's personality comes alive in these pages, his strengths and weaknesses of mind and character clearly outlined. His great services in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 are graphically portrayed. The analysis of his political theory, and of the way in which he sought to apply it to the establishment of of government under the Constitution, is excellent. The depiction of Jeffersonian and Madisonian foreign policy up to the outbreak of the War of 1812
is clear and succinct. This is an excellent biography.
Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
This single volume has provided a penetrating and highly readable biography which merits distinction as the best one-volume life of Madison yet written.
Booknews
Reprint of the biography first published in 1971 (Macmillan), with the addition of a new preface by the author. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813912653
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1990
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 753
  • Sales rank: 220,177
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 1.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Ralph Ketcham is Professor of American Studies, Political Science, and Public Affairs, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. His most recent publications are Presidents above Party: The First American Presidency, 1789-1829 and Individualism and Public Life: An American Dilemma.

University of Virginia Press

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 7, 2011

    Tough to get through. Wait for 2nd Edition

    I would like to say I enjoyed this book, but honestly, I found it brutally long and boring. While 660pages may be reasonable to detail a presidents life, far too many pages were neither biographical nor historical accounts, but analysis by the author and 'contrast & compare' commentary. Furthermore, key (very key!) historical events that I wished to learn more about were only touched upon. Specifically, the election and re-election events and the hand-over to Monroe. In the case of the latter, I don't recall reading more than a paragraph or so on the topic.

    When this text is edited down to 400 pages and the above issues addressed, I would be able to recommend this text, but until then, I would - with all due respect to the extremely knowledgeable author - suggest readers pass on it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2003

    A fine scholarly work

    This book is a tour de force as an intellectual history of Madison's republican ideology and how the "nation builder" remained loyal to his bedrock beliefs even as world events placed enormous strains on the man and the politician. Ketcham's detailed look at the formation of Madison's ideology is unparalled in its scope and completeness. The author also provides a first rate and even-handed analysis of who was at fault for the burning of the capital during the War of 1812. The only down side to this tome is what I consider the unnecessary detail -- often mind-benumbing minutiae --around names and personages long forgotten and unimportant to the story of Madison's life. Having to read through the names of each of the visitors to the Montpelier mansion for Dolly's many parties and socials is just a distraction. Overall, the work will appeal to serious students of history and those with an appreciation of fine scholarship and detailed historical discovery. For those looking for an entertaining read, such as one might find in a popular biography like "John Adams", look elsewhere because this book requires time and effort. Well worth it, though, for the initiated.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2001

    LOOKING OVER THE SHOULDER OF JAMES MADISON

    THIS IS SUCH A WELL WRITTEN LOOK AT JAMES MADISON THAT YOU FEEL YOU ARE ACTUALLY WITH HIM, FEELING HIS FRUSTRATIONS, JOYS, AND VICTORIES. HIS PERSONALITY COMES ALIVE AND YOU SEE HIS STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES AND HIS GREAT RESOLVE. THIS IS A BOOK EVERYONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN OUR CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD READ.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2000

    Timothy Harris, MA.

    Ketchum's biography is an excellent one volume account of Madison's life. For those who do not wish to read Brant's definitive 6-volume biography of Madison, Ketchum's work is a wonderful alternative. The author deals, in great detail, with the various influences upon Madison's constitutional thought, its maturation, and ultimate devotion to the concept of Republicanism. He defends Madison's actions in the war of 1812. At the end of the book, though, the reader doesn't feel that they really 'know' Madison. In other words, the 'inner' Madison is still elusive. Ketchum's treatment of the former President's years in retirement should have been more detailed. Nonetheless, it is an excellent book and well documented. Highly recommended for students of American biography and early American history.

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    Posted October 15, 2010

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    Posted July 11, 2011

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    Posted December 16, 2008

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