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Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
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Lincoln (1995)

by David Herbert Donald

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2,378224,332 (4.24)93
"This fully rounded biography of America's sixteenth President is the product of Donald's half-century of study of Lincoln and his times. In preparing it, Donald has drawn more extensively than any previous writer on Lincoln's personal papers and those of his contemporaries, and he has taken full advantage of the voluminous newly discovered records of Lincoln's legal practice. He presents his findings with the same literary skill and psychological understanding exhibited in his previous biographies, which have received two Pulitzer Prizes ... Much more than a political biography, Donald's Lincoln reveals the development of the future President's character and shows how his private life helped to shape his public career. In Donald's skillful hands, Lincoln emerges as a youthful, vigorous President. One of the youngest men ever to occupy the White House, he was also the husband of an even younger wife and the father of boisterous children. We witness how Lincoln's absorption with politics disrupted his family life, and how his often tumultuous marriage affected his political career. And we see a man renowned for his storytelling and his often sidesplitting humor lapse into the periods of deep melancholy to which he was prone, not only during the dark days of the Civil War but throughout his life ... Donald's strikingly original portrait of Lincoln depicts a man who was basically passive by nature, who confessed that he did not control events but events had controlled him. Yet coupled with that fatalism was an unbounded ambition that drove him to take enormous political risks and enabled him to overcome repeated defeats. Donald shows that Lincoln was a master of ambiguity and expediency--but he also stresses that Lincoln was a great moral leader, inflexibly opposed to slavery and absolutely committed to preserving the Union."--Jacket.… (more)
Recently added bySerrana, blkloft, LarkinPope, jrmac, scottyn73, ithomson, dblidy, barkingatnight, private library
  1. 10
    Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest by Jan Morris (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Both David Donald and Jan Morris portray President Lincoln from personal perceptions.
  2. 00
    Freedom by William Safire (John_Vaughan)
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» See also 93 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
I was expecting something a little better from the famed writer Gore Vidal, but nonetheless this was interesting and worthwhile. ( )
  DanielSTJ | Mar 10, 2019 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Mar 02, 2009):
- Read for Abe's 200th birthday. This was clearly written as a comprehensive one-volume history of Lincoln. As such it is well done. You won't get deep into his mind, nor is this at all intended as a Civil War history. But this is an excellent starting point for a factual, chronological tour of his amazing life. His intimates, from his successful law practice to the cabinet, are given considerable coverage here. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Jan 24, 2018 |
A biography with unique approach: telling the Lincoln life story from Lincoln's perspective of what he knew and when he knew it.

An extensive, highly readable book that covers Lincoln's professional life as an attorney and politician without sentiment. Lawyer Lincoln began his career humbly and slowly gained confidence and clients, until he became one of the leading trial lawyers in the mid-west. David Donald's Lincoln is a political leader who suffered many more failures than successes and achieved political sainthood only after his assassination and death.

This Lincoln biography allows a reader to go back in time and see how President Lincoln was judged by his peers, his constituents and the press: as a physically unattractive seemingly country bumpkin; disorganized executive; and an early poor judge of military talent who slowly learned how to manage this important resource. This is a book that reminds us that however we judge contemporary political leaders, we never know how they will fare in history. I read the book many years ago, and was compelled to re-read it and enjoy it even more the second time. ( )
  kenkarpay | Jun 17, 2017 |
Engaging biography of a man who was plucked from obscurity—though he liked to say he never lost a direct election, his most recent political adventure had been losing a senatorial race to Stephen Douglas—and evolved into one of our most revered presidents. Donald paints a picture of a man who had a strong core that enabled him to get past some initial missteps; a determined learner who always felt a little insecure about his lack of formal education, but would do as much work as necessary to master a task; and a gentle person who nonetheless survived a political culture so toxic that it actually turned into civil war. Bonus: as pundits have always done, pundits announced that his political career was over after he lost the Senate race to Douglas. In some ways the main lesson of American political history is: never listen to anyone who tells you “X’s career is over.” ( )
  rivkat | Mar 17, 2016 |
Just an amazing book. I have a totally new view on Lincoln. ( )
  Fearshop | Aug 20, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Donald is practically a legend as a scholar and a teacher, having trainedcountless historians, including me. Thus, expectations are incredibly high. Still, in his own quiet, firm manner, Donald meets theburdens of his reputation. While this biography may not represent the final word on Lincoln, it will almost surely be the firstword on the subject for generations to come.
 
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Epigraph
I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.
Abraham Lincoln to Albert G. Hodges,
April 4, 1864
Dedication
For Aida and Bruce, who have had to live with Lincoln for most of their lives
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Abraham Lincoln was not interested in his ancestry.
The only time I ever met President John F. Kennedy, in February 1962, he was unhappy with historians. (Preface)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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