Elephants for Mr. Lincoln is an interesting study as it places its focus on the activities of the United States government and American Christian ministry enterprises in Asia during the American Civil War.
Students of the "War Between the States" often find their education focused on both domestic issues and activities in Europe (at least I did when I took classes on the Civil War in college). The politics and the battles continue to produce large volumes of work and will continue to do so as time goes on, such is the Civil War ingrained in our historical fascinations.
This book is very well researched (as attributed by the pages of references) and finds its niche in an often overlooked part of American activity, in this case Asia. The authors underscore the dire state of our diplomatic representation and shipping industry that reduced the status of the United States in the eyes of Asian monarchs and governments. The Confederate raiders that attacked US shipping are also discussed to reflect their impact on shipping.
That lowly view of the US in Asia remained unchanged through the 1870's until around the time Ulysses Grant made a world wind tour of the region. (I think part of that is due to American focus on developing the Western Frontier after the war, and otherwise putting a lower priority on foreign issues during the two decades following the end of the conflict.) In the least it's an excellent historical research tool for anyone performing empirical in depth studies of the United States during the Civil War.
One of the co-authors; Dr. Anita Hibler of "Elephants for Mr. Lincoln" is an old friend. It seems that she and I have been in and out of Southeast Asia for most of our adult lives and I can tell you she very much loves this area of the world and the peoples who live and work in it. The notes and Selected Bibliography are fantastic starting off points for history, economic and numismatic researchers because I do not think I have even thought of using American missionary writings as sources of research of the region, or that they even survived and are available. One of the most notable numismatic sets of coins during the timeframe was a present to the King of Siam of a complete set of American proof coins called the "King of Siam" set. It is not mentioned but a gold sword to the King and a silver sword to the second king are mentioned. There has to be more interesting gifts. The many, many currency transactions will be very useful to someone researching the economics of the period, and there are brief items about the French taking over parts of Viet Nam and Cambodia that are interesing hints that more is hidden in the references to it. There are also quite a bit of Confederate Navy actions in it that might not be known to those interested in that side of the Civil War. I highly recommend this book, but as my review title is an indication, do not look for any excitement in it.
ELEPHANTS FOR MR. LINCOLN: AMERICAN CIVIL WAR-ERA DIPLOMACY IN SOUTHEAST ASIA tells of American-Asian relationships and encounters before and during the U.S. Civil War era, focusing on the individuals who fostered relationships throughout the war years. Diplomacy, trade, and changing relationships between different Asian countries are the focus of chapters surveying changing opinions, politics, and relationships both affected by and distant from Civil War events. A fascinating coverage provides college-level readers with an unusual early diplomatic history key to understanding today's Asian history.
FINALLY, a well-researched book sheds light on the little-known subject of nineteeth century US-Asian diplomacy. Most history books focus on the US-European theater of diplomacy/politics, and too few investigate this fascinating subject of early US-Asian relations. Thumbs up to the authors! I highly recommend this book for those who are looking for a sophisticated historical read that offers more than the standard US-European history books out there. I'm looking forward to the next book published by Dr. Anita Hibler!