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The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln Paperback – March 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In the tradition of psychobiography epitomized by Fawn Brodie (Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History, LJ 4/15/94), Connecticut College historian Burlin-game opens the psychiatrist's couch to Lincoln. The author claims no attempt to rewrite the story of Lincoln's life; rather, he traces the origin of Lincoln's furious temper, cruel streak, aversion to women, hatred of slavery, and stormy relationship with his temperamental wife. Lincoln has been the subject of other psychobiographies (e.g., Charles B. Strozier's Lincoln's Quest for Union, LJ 4/15/82), and Burlingame does much to synthesize these other works. At the same time, he challenges the work of Lincoln's traditional biographer, James G. Randall. Utilizing the papers of Lincoln's law partner, William H. Herndon, and contemporary newspaper accounts, the author gives us an aggregate picture of a troubled man. Whether you agree with Burlingame or not, his analysis is an important new look at the man who shaped the course of a nation in peril. Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries.
Boyd Childress, Auburn Univ. Lib., Ala.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Readers will gain fresh insights into the personality of the greatest -- and saddest -- of American presidents." -- Richard N. Current, author of The Lincoln Nobody Knows

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press (March 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252066677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252066672
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Burlingame, whose website is, is the holder of the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

He was born in Washington DC and attended Phillips Academy, Andover. As a freshman at Princeton University, he took the Civil War course taught by the eminent Lincolnian David Herbert Donald, who hired him a research assistant. When Professor Donald moved on to Johns Hopkins University, Burlingame upon graduation from Princeton followed him to that institution. There he received his Ph.D.

In 1968 he joined the History Department at Connecticut College in New London, where he taught until retiring in 2001 as the May Buckley Sadowski Professor of History Emeritus. He joined the faculty of the University of Illinois-Springfield in 2009.

He currently lives in Springfield, where he is working on several Lincoln-related projects.

He is an avid fan of opera and hockey.

Professor Burlingame is the author of "Abraham Lincoln: A Life" (2 vols.; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) and "The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln" (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994).

In addition, he has edited several volumes of Lincoln primary source materials:

An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln: John G. Nicolay's Interviews and Essays (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996)

Inside Lincoln's White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997) - co-edited with John R. Turner Ettlinger

Lincoln Observed: Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998)

Lincoln's Journalist: John Hay's Anonymous Writings for the Press, 1860-1864 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1998)

An expanded edition of A Reporter's Lincoln by Walter B. Stevens (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998)

With Lincoln in the White House: Letters, Memoranda, and Other Writings of John G. Nicolay, 1860-1865 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000)

At Lincoln's Side: John Hay's Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000)

Inside the White House in War Times: Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln's Secretary by William O. Stoddard (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000)

Dispatches from Lincoln's White House: The Anonymous Civil War Journalism of Presidential Secretary William O. Stoddard (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002)

An expanded edition of The Real Lincoln: A Portrait, by Jesse W. Weik (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002)

"Lincoln's Humor" and Other Essays by Benjamin P. Thomas (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002);

Abraham Lincoln: The Observations of John G. Nicolay and John Hay (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007).

He has received the Abraham Lincoln Association Book Prize (1996), the Lincoln Diploma of Honor from Lincoln Memorial University (1998), Honorable Mention for the Lincoln Prize, Gettsyburg College (2001), and was inducted into the Lincoln Academy of Illinois in 2009.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By The Don Wood Files on June 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Burlingame's book is misnamed in my view - it is not `The Inner World' as much as how Lincoln reacted to the outer world. The reader is left to judge ultimately for himself what Lincoln thought. This is a testament to Burlingame's restraint as a historian. He could have pounded away at all sorts of psychological concepts and explanations, but he does'nt Instead, except for some references to Carl Jung in the beginning of the book and a sprikling of psychological explanations throughout the chapters, he presents in a matter-of-fact way Lincoln's relationships with his wife, his sons, his generals, and discusses his temper, ambition, and parenting, with some, but not excessive, `patient on the couch' pontificating.

The longest, and by far the most powerful, chapter is on Lincoln's marriage. If only half, or even a quarter of what Burlingame recounts was true, then the potato-throwing, screaming, spendthrift Mary Lincoln must have been the worst wife on earth. In Springfield, Lincoln would often rush out the backdoor during Mary's `episodes' - whisking his sons up with him and spending the night in his office, on a couch specially installed that was long enough to handle his tall frame. He was often beaten - a broom being Mary's weapon of choice. My God, the poor man needed his own Emancipation Proclamation!

The chapter on Lincoln's depression details how low this man could get. It was probably his Gloomy Gus outlook that saved Lincoln from completely cracking up; only a person familiar with depression and how to go on under difficult circumstances could withstand the strain of a war that killed 628,000 fellow citizens in four years. I am not a Lincoln scholar so I can't testify to the veracity of all that is in this book. But, reading it will provide you with a sense of how many trials this strange, ambitious, and great man endured - at home and in politics.
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67 of 88 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth P. Cash on April 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
I have been studying Abraham Lincoln for nearly 40 years. Burlingame is inaccurate in many of his statements about Lincoln and Mary Lincoln in particular and does not present all of the information about both of them. Possibly his most faulty act is using William Herndon's information about Lincoln and Mary Lincoln. Herndon and Mary Lincoln hated each other. After Lincoln passed away, Herndon may have very well said things about Lincoln and her to hurt, degrade and disgrace Mary Lincoln. Herndon is NOT to be trusted to be accurate much of the time. Other very poor Lincoln authors are Weik, Sandburg, Gore Vidal, Lerone Bennett, Jr., Thomas DiLorenzo, Vincent Harding and Barbara Fields. Their accuracy, interpretations and images are usually wrong and at times even bizarre. If you want to read professionally researched, much more accurate material about Lincoln, read books by David Herbert Donald, Stephen Oates, Frank Williams, Mark Neely, Jr., Edward Steers, Jr. and Allen Guelzo.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By theoriginalsubguy on February 6, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The organization of this book is not presented in a chronological time scale as most books are. Instead, the author breaks up facets of Lincoln's emotions and personality traits, and then takes us through his whole life, examining the influence of each facet. Only thinking in this manner do I clearly imagine myself in his shoes, feeling what he felt, and in awe of the strength required to break the rebellion, and provide a land where each man's hand could feed that own man's face.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alan F. Sewell on January 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
Historians tend to evaluate historical figures according to what they did as opposed to trying to understand who they were. This type of event-driven analysis can be profoundly misleading because human beings are almost always constrained from doing what they would like to do, even presidents of the United States who are constrained by Congress, the judiciary, the Constitution, and public opinion.

Because Abraham Lincoln was constrained by other powers and therefore did not have complete freedom of action there are two diametrically opposed interpretations of him as a human being:

Conventional History: Lincoln was THE GREAT EMANCIPATOR whose life's work was dedicated to freeing the slaves and insuring that African-Americans would eventually be granted full rights of American citizenship.

Revisionist History: Lincoln was a closet racist who felt that Negroes were inferior to Whites. In his view America was a "White Man's Country." He secetly schemed to deport the freed Negroes to some overseas colony.

Conventional History: As President, Lincoln was a shrewd administrator who walked the narrow rope between dictatorship and anarchy. He followed the Constitution sufficiently to make sure that our democratic republic survived the war, but bent it enough to insure that the Northern States were fully mobilized to win the war.

Revisionist History: As President, Lincoln was a ham-fisted, incompetent administrator whose heavy-handed policies came close to inciting an insurrection north of the Ohio River that rivaled the open rebellion in the South. The North won the civil war in spite of Lincoln, not because of him.

Conventional History: President Lincoln was a man possessing great wisdom and a profound sense of justice.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard Lawrence Miller, Lincoln author on August 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
One of the finest Lincoln scholars provides an excellent examination of Lincoln's many-faceted personality. Burlingame consulted a wide variety of information sources and used them well. His thoroughly documents his narrative.
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