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The Age of Lincoln Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 26, 2007

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The War That Forged a Nation
Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson looks anew at the reasons America's civil war has remained a subject of intense interest for the past century and a half. Learn more

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s The Age of Jackson appeared in 1945 and has been an enduringly popular work with general readers. Burton, [University Distinguished Teacher/Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign] (In My Father's House Are Many Mansions), has written an ambitious sequel, or perhaps homage, on the age of Lincoln. Burton's intriguing thesis is that Lincoln's most profound achievement was not the abolition of slavery but the enshrinement of the principle of personal liberty protected by a body of law. Thus he elevated the founding fathers' (and Jackson's) more restricted vision to a universal one. The outbreak and course of the Civil War should be seen in the light of competing notions of what freedom meant, rather than (as has usually been the case) as a bloody conflict over black emancipation or states' rights. Lincoln, as Burton convincingly argues, both created his age and was a product of it: he matured in an America struggling with a rising free market and millennial impulses that sought Christian perfection. The ultimate result was the triumph of democratic capitalism. For readers seeking to comprehend the sweeping social, religious and cultural backdrop to the Civil War, Burton's book is a worthy heir to Schlesinger's. 8 pages of b&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Burton focuses on the five decades related to the presidency of Lincoln, beginning with the 1840s, chronicling in compelling detail the process of secession, the conduct of events in the course of the Civil War itself, and acts of reconstruction. The author examines all topics relevant to political, social, and economic life during that time, including slavery, racism, religion, the rapid growth of cities, and the expansion of secular cultures and the railroads. Adding another element to his thorough picture of the times, Burton profiles several leading figures, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, John Brown, John C. Calhoun, Frederick Douglass, General Winfield Scott, Booker T. Washington, and Mathew Brady. Augmented by eight pages of black-and-white illustrations, the book captures in excellent prose the early decades of modern American history. Cohen, George
Copyright © American Library Association. 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: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; 1st edition (June 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809095130
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809095131
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #755,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The best historians are excellent story tellers, usually with a relatively detached style.
Eric Jakobsson
It is interesting that a huge fault line was a part of our founding, namely, the legal acceptance of slavery.
J. Grattan
In fact, I don't read history books all that often, but this book is very well written and easy to read.
J. Morris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Ben D. Campbell on September 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Age of Lincoln" by Dr. Orville Vernon Burton is an insightful , hard headed , clear eyed look at the roots of the American Civil War , the path that led to eventual victory and the utter failure of Lincoln's successors to "win" the peace as decisively as he had won the war. This book is a stunning feat of original thinking, scholarship, and research. The depth and the breadth of the research is revealed in the many details of what was taking place in the political , social , religious and economic strata of American life during this tumultuous time. The weaving of these disparate elements into a cogent tapestry is a testament to Dr. Burton's scholarship. Dr. Burton's mastery of his voluminous research and his skill in writing a riveting narrative only enhances his standing as an American historian of the first order.

As Dr Burton shows the "original sin" of our founding fathers to face the question of slavery as a blot on the face of humanity in "The Declaration of Independence" and ""The Constitution" sowed the seeds that produced the bloody harvest of the Southern Rebellion. The evolution of President Lincoln's thinking of "The Emancipation Proclamation" as a strategic war maneuver to an act of basic humanity reflects Lincoln's antipathy towards slavery and his changing feelings on the equality of the races. While Lincoln was still evolving in his recognition of the equality of African Americans to the white's of America his legacy of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution ultimately redeemed the promise of the founding fathers.

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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By J. Morris on July 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I just finished this book and really enjoyed it. In fact, I don't read history books all that often, but this book is very well written and easy to read. I expected to read about the differences between the North and the South, but I had never even thought about how the West fit into the picture. I expected to read about Civil War battles, but I liked the human interest side. I learned that Reconstruction formed an important part of America's history, and the sentiment of Reconstruction did not really end until the Supreme Court sanctioned segregation almost 30 years after the Civil War ended. Besides writing about the politics and culture of the times, the author put in interesting stories about different people. After finishing the book, I have great respect for Abraham Lincoln, and I found the idea that Lincoln was a Southerner both surprising and insightful. Lincoln is not the main character of the book, but his ideas had a huge impact on the coming of the Civil War, on the aftermath of war and how America developed. I recommend this book to anyone who an interest in history, scholars in academia, or those who are simply curious about the finest president of our country.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By crossofgold on October 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Age of Lincoln is a persuasive and unique interpretation of the events and ideas that reshaped the United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Focused around the life and ideas of Abraham Lincoln, there is also successful incorporation of a range of other influential characters such as John Brown, Preston Brooks, Andrew Johnson, Frank Baum, and William Jennings Bryan. The book discusses and advances central themes of race, religion, and liberty, and provides a convincing and fresh interpretation of the circumstances around the American Civil War.

The author does a good job of illustrating the contrast and tension of the age. He uses interesting examples to explore central contrasts of white vs. black, slave vs. free, south vs. north, rich vs. poor and uses those contrasts as a lens to understand many of the motivations and events of the period. Interestingly, much of the discussion of Lincoln's commitment to liberty that motivated him to wage the American Civil War eerily contrasts to the ideas of liberty and freedom advanced by another Republican president to justify a quite different war.

Overall, the book does an excellent job of relating the tensions and interests of the people in the ante bellum period, the events and struggles during the war, the reconstructive efforts afterwards, and it concludes persuasively by connecting these events to the rise of populism and the ascension of the corporation during the beginning of the 20th century. The Age of Lincoln is a refreshing and engaging interpretation of important historical events that remain relevant to this day.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Publius on March 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The "Age of Lincoln," according to Burton, was born of the post-Jackson period that blended professions of white democracy with uncompromising faith in one's moral righteousness and ended with a continued (and decidedly more complicated) and irresolvable debate over the meaning of freedom, "democratic citizenship, and equality (p. 369)". Son of a southern yeoman, Abraham Lincoln carried forth the rugged ideals of his upbringing with its stalwart code of southern honor to the presidency along with his evolving ideas about race, religion, and the American experiment with democracy. Burton suggests that the Civil War began over the question of slavery; was fostered by an absolutist, millenialist mentality of both sections; transformed into a war of freedom; and created a modern nation in its stead. Amidst the carnage the war's effects altered nearly every facet of American life from economics and religion to politics, race, psychology, and family dynamics. Despite some 620,000 casualties, Burton asserts that the most profound changes came about far from the battlefields and stemmed from the new reality of "the growth of corporations and of big government under Lincoln's administration (p. 224)."

Tackling the Civil War period is complex particularly from the vast outpouring of scholarly attention bestowed on it. Clearly indebted to James McPherson's magisterial Battle Cry of Freedom and Eric Foner's Reconstruction, Burton's The Age of Lincoln similarly weaves a grandly eloquent tale of social and cultural history but boldly proclaims the era's "fulcrum" Lincoln himself.
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