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Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power Hardcover – Deckle Edge, January 10, 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The heart of this powerful book details Lincoln's election to and years in the White House. In describing his campaign for president, Oxford historian Carwardine (Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America) recreates the intense party politics of the mid-19th century. The newly formed Republican Party was home to Americans with many different political agendas, and Lincoln's "blend of constitutional conservatism and high-minded... moralism" was a good basis for coalition. Carwardine pays careful attention to Lincoln's religious views, arguing that war brought him into close contact with evangelicals, who argued that the president would only succeed in reuniting the country if he obeyed God's word. Carwardine also traces the evolution of Lincoln's thinking about slavery—though he embraced emancipation first because winning the war required it, by the time he was killed Lincoln had edged toward black men's suffrage. One closes this powerful biography wondering how postbellum politics might have been different were it not for that fateful gunshot on April 14, 1865. Cawardine's Lincoln Prize–winning study is not only analytical and smart, it's also delightfully readable—and it will surely emerge as one of the most important Lincoln books to be published this decade. 74 b&w photos, 3 maps. (Jan. 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–For all that has been written about the 16th president, Carwardine has found an aspect worthy of closer focus: Lincoln as the man who discovered and developed a political agenda, worked to advance it, and led both the nation and himself to new heights. The author discusses his subject's background, both personal and political; how Lincoln's principles led him to the Whig party and then on to the Republicans; and how these principles helped him reach his status as savior of the Union and the Great Emancipator. This is a fascinating tale of the 19th-century politician who became popularly identified as America's greatest president.–Ted Westervelt, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (January 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400044561
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400044566
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,333,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This clearly written book is by a true expert in the politics and history of the antebellum and Civil War eras. Carwardine, Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University, presents a balanced, thoughtful, well-informed treatment of Lincoln as a political leader, expertly placing him in the full context of his times. Carwardine is especially wise on the subject of Lincoln's religious beliefs and their influence on his words and conduct as president. This book is an outstanding work of history and interpretation, based on the best primary and secondary sources.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It all began with a visit to the Lincoln Memorial. There the man sat, with his oversized arms and legs, his face inscrutable, having both a firm grip on the ground and towering above the earth, reaching heaven. Emotions were overwhelming, and in my confusion I was reminded all at once of a scene from a Greek tragedy, of Oedipus having met his fate as prophesized by the Delphi Oracle, or of the Pythia who delivered that sentence. The proximity of the Washington Monument also evoked the distant civilization of Egypt, with its symbolic constructions that are a powerful testimony to the transience of human endeavors. There he was, the American Sphinx, seating near the obelisk, surrounded by lapidary inscriptions, who seemed to greet every visitor with a riddle echoing on the temple's walls: "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

Having had my curiosity aroused, I turned to biographies of Lincoln in order to understand the man behind the myth, so as to begin to answer the riddle of America's endurance. Richard J. Carwardine's book is by far the best biography I stumbled across. He analyzes Lincoln within his unique historical and political context, arguing that Lincoln was as much a product of his era as he was a producer of historical events.

The distinctive mark of this essay is to uncover and explain the sources of Lincoln's power. In mid-nineteenth-century America, the world's first mass participatory democracy, political success derived from the effective interplay of three elements: Lincoln's personal ambition, his sensitivity to public opinion and ability to shape it, and his skill in using the organizing machinery of the political party and other networks of communication.
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Format: Hardcover
Abraham Lincoln's life and career continue to fascinate and inspire Americans. Richard Carwardine's recent study: "Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power" joins a select number of outstanding works on Lincoln written by a non-American scholar. Richard Carwardine is the Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University. His book, fittingly, was awarded the Lincoln prize, the first work of a British writer to be so honored.

Professor Carwardine's study tells little of Lincoln's private life: his marriage, prior relationships with women, his personal interests, his depression, his sexual orientation, and other issues that have been explored in some recent works. He seems to presuppose a knowledge in his readers of the rudimentary facts of Lincoln's life. (A duel in which Lincoln participated as a young man is mentioned twice in passing but never developed.) Instead, Professor Carwadine explores Lincoln's public career, before and during his presidency, and tries to develop the traits of character and the circumstances that made Lincoln what he was.

Thus, Professor Carwardine devotes a great deal of attention to Lincoln's overwhelming ambition -- noted by virtually every writer on this subject -- and his desire to make something of his life through work and effort. Professor Carwardine also emphasizes Lincoln's shrewdness, knowledge of human nature, ability to present himself, and facility at working with and blending together disparate groups and ideas. These pragmatic, practical abilities would prove essential to the tasks Lincoln was called upon to perform as president.

Professor Carwardine emphasizes as well another, more thoughtful side of Lincoln.
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Format: Hardcover
I concur with other reviewers who praise this book for its organization, clarity, and insight. It departs from the usual chronological order followed by most biographies to concentrate on the development of Lincoln's character, party connections, and administrative abilities. At different times Lincoln is described as "shrewd," "cunning," "inefficient," "firm," "diligent," "energetic," and hard-working.

I also concur with Christian Schlect's review that Professor Carwardine's conclusion seems to conflict with his text. Carwardine sums up: "Lincoln is best understood not as the extraordinary figure of the iconographers, but as a man of his times, politically wise but capable of misjudgments, too, and powerful largely because he was representative" (p. 319), as if only iconographers could consider Lincoln extraordinary. One need only look at President Buchanan before Lincoln and President Johnson after him to see that the times also called up some very mediocre figures.

Carwardine's conclusion comes as a surprise, but the surprise is softened by an afterword that explains his desire to convey a "neutral" view. His book is praised by many of the best Lincoln scholars alive, and they are right: with the exception of his page about exceptionality, his book is exceptionally good.
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