Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mount TBR #26

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2016. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

Lincoln Reconsidered: Essays on the Civil War Era
– David Donald

This is a collection of essays by a Mississippi-born historian. Donald did undergraduate work in history, political science, and sociology. In graduate school, he focused on Lincoln, under the mentorship of famed scholar James G. Randall. Donald taught at Columbia University, Johns Hopkins and, from 1973, Harvard.  He passed away in 2009.

The interesting topics include Lincoln and the abolitionists, whom he interestingly describes a social movement; Lincoln as demi-god in folklore; the myths launched by Herndon in the first so-called psychological biography; Lincoln as a canny politician; Peace Democrats; a sympathetic treatment (for once) of Radical Republicans like Stevens and Sumner; the factors that contributed to the Lincoln cult-feeling; and a balanced view of Reconstruction.

This book was published in 1956, collecting articles published here and there. As we would expect from a book of this time, African Americans are at the margins. Back in the day, this book was often assigned in college and high schools so it is definitely accessible to the general reader. It’s not a searching analysis such as David Blight’s Race and Reunion (which I’m reading now), but I think enjoying this book would be students like us who have concluded (probably with age) that the causes of the Civil War and its effects on our country are more interesting than battles and all that.                 

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