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Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas Hardcover – January 26, 2009
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“Allen Guelzo is one of the finest Lincoln scholars of our generation, and this book of essays reveals once again a unique combination of impeccable scholarship with a wonderfully readable narrative style.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Guelzo’s contribution is countering the quest for simple answers in explaining Lincoln’s actions, thoughts, and values, and challenging his familiar portrayal as a product of unalloyed American exceptionalism. Guelzo presents Lincoln as a self-taught, and therefore original, thinker in the best sense of the word, and concludes that “we need to know that Lincoln thought and what he thought about.” (24) In that effort, this book is a wonderful place to begin. Kenneth J. Winkle, Journal of Historical Biographies
Written in an easy, flowing style, Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas is a valuable compendium of the ideas driving some of our most important historical inquiries into Lincoln’s life and times. This first-rate collection is a significant contribution to the literature on Lincoln.”Brian R. Dirck, author of Lincoln and Davis: Imagining America, 18091865
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Top Customer Reviews
Steady yourself: this is not a biographical narrative that makes for quick reading but instead is a series of extended essays that fall into the category of intellectual history. Because each chapter is a thematic unit standing on its own, it makes for a well callibrated discussion that is extensive enough to cover significant ground yet relieves one of the burden of reading through a couple of hundred pages to achieve important understanding.
What I appreciate so much in reading Guelzo's analysis of Lincoln distinctives is the easily attained sense that he is definitively unwrapping the man and his religious/philosphical/political/economic convictions in a manner that is true to Lincoln himself. This anaylsis is free of any effort to shove Lincoln into a "school" of interpretation or form of psychological analysis or to judge the man outside the standards of his own time and society. Instead, with good reason, you feel that you have come to understand Lincoln as he actually was. A very valuable little book.Read more ›
Professor Guelzo is an expert on this great man and some of these essays are very good (such as the ones on the war powers of a president and on the Emancipation Proclamation) but there are others that really are for a more specialized readership (such as the ones on prudence and the doctrine of necessity.)
As an example from one essay on community-men: "But the jeremiads of Etzione, Bellah, and other 'new communitarians' were not actually all that new. The nineteenth-century founders of scientific sociology--August Comte, Max Weber, Emil Durkeim, and especially Ferdinand Tonnies--all contrasted the new industrial nation-states of the late 1800s with their medieval and traditional predecessors, and usually to the disadvantage of the former." And this feeds directly into a short discussion of the German terms "Gemeinschaft" and "Gesellschaft."
While this is not a bad book by any measure, I just have trouble recommending a collection of previously issued essays, in a book priced at about the same level as a new general biography or other original work. Especially in a publishing year flooded with material on Mr. Lincoln.