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Living Lincoln

Living Lincoln

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About the Book

The Living Lincoln gives new voice to several aspects of Abraham Lincoln's career as seen through the lens of recent scholarship, in essays that show how the sixteenth president's appeal continues to endure and expand. Featuring eleven essays from major historians, the book offers thoughtful, provocative, and highly original examinations of Lincoln's role as commander-in-chief, his use of the press to shape public opinion, his position as a politician and party leader, and the changing interpretations of his legacy as a result of cultural and social changes over the century and a half since his death. 

In an opening section focusing largely on Lincoln's formative years, insightful explorations into his early self-education and the era before his presidency come from editors Frank J. Williams and Harold Holzer, respectively. Readers will also glimpse a Lincoln rarely discerned in books: calculating politician, revealed in Matthew Pinsker's illuminating essay, and shrewd military strategist, as demonstrated by Craig L. Symonds. Stimulating discussions from Edna Greene Medford, John Stauffer, and Michael Vorenberg tell of Lincoln's friendship with Frederick Douglass, his gradualism on abolition, and his evolving thoughts on race and the Constitution to round out part two. Part three features reflections on his martyrdom and memory, including a counterfactual history from Gerald J. Prokopowicz that imagines a hypothetical second term for the president, emphasizing the differences between Lincoln and his successor, Andrew Johnson. Barry Schwartz's contribution presents original research that yields fresh insight into Lincoln's evolving legacy in the South, while Richard Wightman Fox dissects Lincoln's 1865 visit to Richmond, and Orville Vernon Burton surveys and analyzes recent Lincoln scholarship. 

This thought-provoking new anthology, introduced at a major bicentennial symposium at Harvard University, offers a wide range of ideas and interpretations by some of the best-known and most widely respected historians of our time. The Living Lincoln is essential reading for those seeking a better understanding of this nation's greatest president and how his actions resonate today.


Associate librarian of Houghton Library for Collections at Harvard University, Thomas A. Horrocks is the author of Popular Print and Popular Medicine: Almanacs and Health Advice in Early America

Harold Holzer, who served as cochairman of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, is senior vice president for external affairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is the author or editor of thirty-six books, including Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter, 1860–1861

Frank J. Williams, retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, is the author or editor of fourteen books, including Judging Lincoln; The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views; and Lincoln Lessons: Reflections on America’s Greatest Leader.


"The multiple perspectives in this stimulating volume on Abraham Lincoln as politician, commander in chief, emancipator, and nationalist demonstrate that the Lincoln theme in our historical literature is far from exhausted. Even seasoned Lincoln scholars will find new information and fresh insights in these essays."--James M. McPherson, author of This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War 

"The Lincoln Bicentennial has seen a torrent of important publications, and The Living Lincoln ranks high among them. With essays on a variety of Lincoln topics from the pens of major scholars and ably edited by other leaders in the field, this anthology is a must read."--John F. Marszalek, executive director and managing editor, Ulysses S. Grant Association, Mississippi State University 

"The distinguished contributors to The Living Lincoln combine fresh insights on Lincoln as autodidact, political manager, president-elect, and naval novice with shrewd, unsentimental, and balanced perspectives on his racial views. Their essays offer a delightful introduction to some of the best recent scholarship on the nation's sixteenth president."--Richard Carwardine, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford University