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Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times Hardcover – October 4, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 170 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Historian Brands, author of the bestselling The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin, now turns to Andrew Jackson (1767–1845), illuminating both the mettle of a fascinating leader and the crucible in which American democracy was forged. A military hero during the War of 1812 and winner of the popular presidential vote in 1824 (he lost the election in Congress), Jackson won the office handily in 1828. Brands argues that the populist Jackson changed the very nature of the presidency, vetoing more bills than all six of his predecessors combined; thwarting the bank of the United States; and in a dramatic test of wills, preparing for civil war when South Carolina threatened to secede over tariffs. He died at the age of 78, just days after learning that Texas would join the union. Although Brands lacks the narrative flair of David McCullough, his effort is intensely engaging. He meticulously renders Jackson's life, his ugly massacres of Indians as well as his triumphs, with unflinching detail. He also conveys the vagaries of war, life on the frontier, the perilous state of the union and the brass-knuckles politics of the day. The result is a bracing, human portrait of both a remarkable man and of American democracy as it was transformed from a "government of the people" into a "government by the people."
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics agree that even though there’s mild interest in the life of President Andrew Jackson, the author who could spark a forest fire of curiosity would be acclaimed biographer, H. W. Brands, who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. In tackling the life and times of Jackson, Brands doesn’t overlook any of the controversial aspects of "Old Hickory" and his history. Who remembered that Jackson killed a man for disrespecting his wife, was fiercely protective of his honor, and adored veto power (Brands claims he vetoed more bills than the previous six presidents combined)? While critics praised Brands for placing Jackson squarely within the context of the republic’s formative years, they faulted him for offering scant new material and focusing more on Old Hickory’s military career than his influential political one. Still, this warts-and-all biography will engage readers interested in the nation’s early history.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 620 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (October 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385507380
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385507387
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 1.6 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #434,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gregory Maier on October 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
H.W. Brands takes on an "American original" for the first time since his seminal, single-volume biography of Benjamin Franklin, and does a very good job with his subject. The author presents, in under 600 pages, all the most important facets of "the People's President" and his devotion which not only preserved the Union, but made democracy flourish in an uncertain, turbulent time.

Andrew Jackson was devoted to many things for many reasons, and Brands shows us why, even if at times this man of the people seems a contradiction. The writing is precise and clear, though hardly the flowing prose of McCullough or Ellis (as has been remarked); yet it is the precision, craft and careful presentation employed by Brands that make this largely successful single-volume work shine. And if some may find the prose a little dry in places, the author more than compensates by interweaving a rich background tapestry for readers in every chapter, presenting a clear, historical context for observations about Jackson's character formation, mentality, psychology, military strategy, attitudes, decisions, and political development.

With surprising efficiency and admirable attention to detail, Brands brings the life of Andrew Jackson into intense focus, particularly at crucial moments like his difficult childhood and the gradual loss of his family during the Revolutionary War (Jackson's father died shortly before his namesake son was born); the privations, tribulations, humiliation, injury, loss, and intense insecurity of the seventh president's boyhood cannot be overstated.
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Format: Hardcover
For all his prominence among American presidents, Andrew Jackson has been the subject of fewer major biographies than one might assume. There is, of course, the masterful three-volume biography by Remini, which is and will remain for some time the major biography of Jackson, as well as the classic single volume by Arthur Schlesinger THE AGE OF JACKSON, a very great book even though Jackson emerges as more or less a proto 1930s New Dealer. This excellent new biography by H. W. Brands, who among his many interesting books wrote a stellar biography of Benjamin Franklin, does not supplant either of these books, but rather supplements them. While Remini's remains the for-now definitive biography of Jackson, those not willing or possessing the time to work through his three-volume work can feel easy about turning to this single-volume biography. I should note that Remini has produced a one-wolume condensation of his longer work, but I must confess an inherent bias against abridgements, even if performed by the author himself.

Of all the American presidents, Andrew Jackson lived the fullest, most colorful life. Only Teddy Roosevelt can come close for the variety of his life's experiences and even he falls far short of all that Jackson managed to do or be in his life. Jackson was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, briefly a school teacher, a lawyer, a judge, a U.S. Representative to Congress, a U.S. Senator, a circuit judge, a duelist, a gambler, a slave owner and trader, a dry goods salesman, a farmer, a landowner, a major general in the state militia, an Indian fighter, and a general in the U.S. Army, all before achieving national fame at the Battle of New Orleans.
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Format: Hardcover
Andrew Jackson led a colorful and complex life in his 78 years. He was a military genius, plantation owner, Indian fighter, a racist toward non-whites, controversial loser of the 1824 and easy winner of the 1828 & 1832 Presidential elections, orphan, scarred by the British and married to a married woman, his true love. Mr. Brands tells his story of a man of contradictions in 600+ pages.

Mr. Brands writes a dense, just the facts approach in his biography of this populist President from the West who campaigned against the elitist Northeast. The true climax of his Presidency was his delaying the onset of the Civil War with his staring down his own Vice-President and the South with a genuine military show of force during the secession crisis.

Mr. Brands has written the best one volume biography of the seventh President, surpasssing Robert Remini's own 400+ page condensation ("The Life of Andrew Jackson"--1988) of his classic trilogy on Andrew Jackson. However, given that Jackson was at the center of American history for over 60 years, the reader is referred to Mr. Remini's three volume definitive biography of 1,600 pages (1977, 1981, 1984) for a fuller, richer picture of this fascinating President. In deciding which to read, it depends on how much time and how much interest the reader has in Andrew Jackson.
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Format: Hardcover
OK - I'll admit how little I knew of Jackson as I started this biography. Battle of New Orleans, Old Hickory, Hermitage, 7th President, and that was about it. If you find yourself close to my level of ignorance, then you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Brands has written a biography that reads like fiction. In a life that stretched from the Revolution to the entry of Texas, Jackson was instrumental in the shaping of both our current notion of representative democracy and the actual shape that our Union now assumes. One could argue that he is the most influential President not on Mt. Rushmore.

Brands' biography touches on the unsavory side of Jackson: his slave holding, dueling, and most of all, his instrumental role in seizing America from the Native American tribes. I think Brands stops short of exonerating Jackson, but he does place him in context. The reader is left to be the final judge, but there is little doubt that Brands feels Jackson's undeniable greatness overshadows his undeniable flaws.

Overall, I found this a fascinating look at an unjustly forgotten great American. Reading this was time well spent.
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