Review of James McPherson’s Abraham Lincoln

abe-lincoln-coverJames M. McPherson, Abraham Lincoln (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2009). 96 pp. $12.95. ISBN13:  9780195374520.

In honor of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth, renowned Civil War scholar James M. McPherson has written a wonderful brief biography of our 16th President. This book will be a wonderful source for beginners to study Lincoln and will serve as a good framework for larger works, like David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln.

This book covered the important aspects of Lincoln’s life from his birth and childhood in Kentucky and Indiana to his coming to Illinois, to his administration and death. McPherson discussed Lincoln’s tarnished relationship with his father and his wonderful relationship with his step-mother, which presented a more personal side of the man.

Though short, this book does a great job of discussing Lincoln’s life in the larger context of American history. McPherson summarized the important moments and events during his life and provided a wonderful look at the war and its effect on him.

True to his scholarly reputation, McPherson used great sources for this little biography, including the Collected Works of Lincoln and Lincoln at Cooper Union to name a couple. In addition to using great primary and secondary sources, McPherson provided a bibliographic essay that provided a great synthesis of the historiography of Lincoln and where it may be heading in the coming year.

There are many things to like about this book. It is a well-researched, but brief biography that will reach a wide audience. The reputation of James McPherson as a scholar lends great weight to the legitimacy of this biography. Abraham Lincoln is a wonderful beginning to the scholarly celebration of the Lincoln bicentennial.


Meeting a legend

Okay readers, the wait is over! So, who did I get to meet today? None other than Dr. James M. McPherson. You read right, I said James McPherson, author of numerous books on the Civil War, including Battle Cry of Freedom. Dr. McPherson was in Fargo, ND (about 80 miles south of where I live) to visit his birth state (he spent the first few years of his life in ND) and talk about his latest book as part of the Read ND program and in early commemoration for the Lincoln bicentennial.

I attended two events today. The first was a seminar at the studio for Prairie Public Television, which is the local PBS station here. This was an invite only event and myself, several of my colleagues at UND, and students and staff from NDSU and Concordia College were able to ask questions of Dr. McPherson. It was an aweome event and I was able to get two of my books signed by him. I also was able to be pictured with him and will post it when I am emailed it. The program will be webcast and I will post the link as soon as it is available.

The second event was an evening lecture by him at the historic Fargo Theater. At this, McPherson lectured about Lincoln as commander-in-chief, which is the subject of his newest book Tried by Fire. I only wish that more of my friends could have attended, as this was an incredible event and quite an honor for me to meet a legend in Civil War history.

Sorry for all the anticipation, but I wanted this to be an awesome surprise for you all. Again, when I get the picture and the link to the program I was a part of, I will post them here. Well, it’s late, I am tired, so I am going to relax and prepare for tomorrow, so have a great night.

Since WordPress is now allowing polls with posts, I thought I would take a try at it, so here is the first of hopefully many more polls. So, go ahead and vote.