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Lincoln and Davis: Imagining America, 1809-1865 (American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas)) Hardcover – November 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: American Political Thought (University Press of Kansas)
  • Hardcover: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; First Edition edition (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700611371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700611379
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,599,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Any schoolchild knows that Lincoln was the great American hero who freed the slaves, and Jefferson Davis was a traitor who defended slavery. But this easy dichotomy, argues Dirck, while not completely wrong, misses far more interesting personal and historical comparisons between the two. Dirck, an assistant professor of history at Anderson University, has focused here on appraising and evaluating these leaders' individual notions of nationalism. Lincoln and Davis conceptualized the underlying nature of the U.S. (what Dirck calls "imagined communities") in radically antithetical terms: the former's "nation of strangers" unable to know one another's heart as distinctly opposed to Davis's "community of strangers" in which "national bonding [was] a matter of sentiment" and honor. Dirck's investigation yields fascinating results. "Nationalism," he says, "is not an idea, it is an emotion, something more akin to religion than a political party." He draws upon a wide range of his protagonists' personal experiences relationships with fathers, friendships, home lives to sketch emotional, psychological and political profiles. Because his conceptual terms are so broad, it often feels as though Dirck is skimming important material a mere two paragraphs on presidents' near-dueling experiences feels foreshortened in a discussion of Lincoln's concept of "honor" but he offers enough interpretation and unique material (Mary Todd Lincoln and Varina Davis used the same African-American dressmaker) to overcome what might have been a tendency toward oversimplification. While not quite proving that his analysis "turns traditional perspectives on Davis and Lincoln upside down," Dirck does present a provocative and potentially fruitful new interpretation of U.S. culture and intellectual history.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Dirck's book provides a splendid comparative analysis of how the main protagonists' upbringing and everyday lives shaped the characters of Lincoln and Davis and colored their respective perceptions of America as a national community. Dirck (history, Anderson Univ.) shows that Lincoln's frontier individualism influenced his notion of a "nation of strangers" held together by the rule of law, while Davis's restricted Southern upbringing and martial conditioning at West Point molded his idea of a "community of sentiment" based on codes of honor. As Americans took sides after Fort Sumter, according to Dirck, President Davis's imagination required a nation (the Confederacy) of like-minded men and women who, in turn, carried out the will of a like-minded God. As commanders in chief, Davis understood military protocol; Lincoln did not. Davis spoke of soldiers' honor; Lincoln spoke of their suffering. Davis believed the war created a national character; Lincoln believed that character was necessary to resist the difficulties and temptations caused by the war. This thoughtfully organized, engagingly written, and well-researched book is recommended for all Lincoln, Southern, and Civil War collections. John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Athens
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Brian Dirck is a Professor of History at Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Kansas, where he was fortunate to have studied under the tutelage of pre-eminent Civil War and Lincoln scholar Philip S. Paludan. His first book, "Lincoln and Davis: Imagining America, 1809-1865," was based on his dissertation, offering a comparative analysis of the two Civil War presidents' lives and careers.

He has since focused most of his attention on Abraham Lincoln. He edited and contributed to a collection of essays entitled "Lincoln Emancipated: The President and the Politics of Race." In 2007 he published "Lincoln the Lawyer," an overview of Lincoln's legal career. "Lincoln the Lawyer" was awarded the Benjamin Barondess Award from the New York Civil War Roundtable for the best book published on Abraham Lincoln in 2007. In 2012 he published "Lincoln and the Constitution," as part of the Concise Lincoln Library Series, and "Lincoln and White America," an analysis of Lincoln's views concerning white supremacy and racism.

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anthony T. Guerriero on June 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are so many books on Abraham Lincoln, that choosing one can be extremely daunting. But this books presents the two candidates for the Presidency in 1860, one for the USA and the othe, the CSA. Clearly, Lincoln is presented, and rightfully so, as a man whose morals play a large role in the great man he becomes. For Davis, his morals, as conditioned by his Southern upbringing, lay the path for failure. If you are looking for a different book on ALincoln from a political perspective posing one candidate agains the other, this is for you.
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