From Publishers Weekly
Essential to the myth of Lincoln, writes University of Nebraska historian Winkle, is the image of the log cabin: the 16th president's humble origins made his rise to the White House astounding. Winkle shows that though his roots were modest, Lincoln was hardly a self-made man. His rise from "frontier poverty" to the presidency occurred in a specific historic context, and the strength of this biography lies less in any startling new findings about Lincoln's early years and more in Winkle's careful and consistent placement of Lincoln's choices within larger sociocultural trends. For example, historians have made much of the early death of Lincoln's mother, Nancy. But the loss of one's mother at an early age was common then, says Winkle, and scholars may have overstated the impact it had on the future president. He also examines Lincoln's much-analyzed estrangement from his father--he refused to go to his father's sick bed or even to attend his funeral--in a broader historical context. Winkle sets this family drama against the backdrop of changes in economic and family values: as production increasingly left the home for the factory in antebellum America, "fathers... lost their privileged, patriarchal status." Similarly, Winkle describes Lincoln's turbulent courtship of Mary Todd in light of changes in the institution of marriage during the 1830s and '40s. Does all this contextualizing add up to a sweepingly revised biography of Lincoln, or even to a grand new understanding of his "rise"? No. But Winkle's attention to the particularities of time and place reminds readers that Lincoln was not simply an underdog hero who appeared on the scene in 1860, and this outlook distinguishes his book from the endless stream of Lincoln biographies.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Over the years, the life of Abraham Lincoln has been the focus of such a large number of scholarly and popular studies that many might wonder whether a new addition to this literature is warranted. Yet this work by Winkle (American history, Univ. of Nebraska; Politics of Community) demonstrates that modern historical methodology can offer new insight into this important life. Winkle utilizes community analysis to examine the life of Abraham Lincoln in its broad social and cultural context and to compare him meaningfully to his contemporaries. Drawing from a broad range of primary and secondary sources, the author is able to reconstruct Lincoln's youth in an unusual and quite well-documented study that informs the reader as much about life and politics in mid-19th century America as it does about Lincoln himself. The result is a good addition to larger public and academic libraries and especially to collections specializing in Lincoln and the Civil War. Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.