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Lincoln (1995)

af David Herbert Donald

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
2,570244,325 (4.23)94
Biografi om den amerikanske præsident (1809-1865).
  1. 10
    Lincoln: A Foreigner's Quest af Jan Morris (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Both David Donald and Jan Morris portray President Lincoln from personal perceptions.
  2. 00
    Freedom af William Safire (John_Vaughan)
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Viser 1-5 af 23 (næste | vis alle)
This was hailed as the biography for its generation when it appeared in 1995, but I waited until a generation elapsed (26 years) before reading it. It remains an impressive read.
In its outline, the book presents a familiar story. While still in grade school, in the years leading up to the centennial of the Civil War, I'd read Lincoln biographies in both the Childhood of Famous Americans and Landmark series, Jim Bishop's Night Lincoln Was Shot, and several books about the war. But Donald started fresh and researched thoroughly, emphasizing primary sources, including newly-available records from Lincoln's law practice. He combined this with a mastery of narrative flow so that the book, although detailed, makes a quick read.
More than half of the book is devoted to Lincoln's four years as president, which seems fitting. After all, it was those years that made the man memorable.
I increasingly feel that one's experience of a book depends on when one reads it. Of course, this is true of the time in one's personal life, but it was also poignant to read this book in light of the recent past's acrimonious political discourse. It's easy to forget the torrent of abuse that poured over Lincoln, given the apotheosis he underwent after his death. It helps put the unreasoning calumny we hear daily in perspective; nothing new under the sun. I'm not sure whether that's comforting, though.
Donald's conviction of Lincoln's greatness doesn't mislead him into whitewashing the man. It had never been so clear to me how Lincoln was hobbled by bringing no executive experience to the job of being president. He often seemed to be improvising, stumbling. The vexed relation with generals, which I had assumed was the generals' fault, turns out, on this reading, to have been a problem for which Lincoln was in part responsible. He wasn't very good at staffing and then meddled unhelpfully, all the while thinking he was loyal to his choices, even when they turned out not to have been good ones.
Donald not only presents a well-researched and smoothly-written narrative, but he also conveys a sense of Lincoln the man. I was fascinated by the character of Lincoln, with its mix of ambition and passivity. In addition, he manifests the paradox of genuine, folksy humility alongside an abiding conviction of his own superiority. I came to realize that this was no contradiction: it was precisely his belief in his own mental and moral excellence that permitted him to freely own up to his errors. Finally, I was struck that Lincoln, as a young man, chose politics and law as a career path simply because they were the last two options open to him after failing at everything else. Still, he proved a good fit at both.
The book ends with the sudden impact of an assassin's bullet. There is no recounting of the aftermath. This is in line with the author's overall narrative strategy: to write a sharply focused biography, filling in no more context than necessary to tell the life. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Aug 4, 2021 |
Studying slavery and the civil war as a history major in college, I've previously run into Lincoln and in particular this book. Donald has received extensive praise for this biography. I never took time to actually read the entire thing at once though. Now that I have, I can confidently say it deserves every bit of praise. The number of subjects covered, Donald's consistency and depth of insight, his skill in delineating fact and opinion in the treatment of each subject, and the sheer readability of this book are enough to justify its plaudits. What lies beyond any praise I can offer, however, is the quality of the writing. Donald's prose is stunning in its simple delivery of complex information. And yet it remains accessible enough for a threateningly drowsy end-of-day train read.

With Lincoln as a subject it is not terribly difficult to find the man. Despite his private nature, Lincoln revealed himself in all his writing and interactions. He was a people person, and he never shied away from presenting himself in multi-faceted ways. That makes for an engrossing subject already, and a talented historian can readily uncover that. It can, however, be difficult to find something interesting to say that hasn't already been said. Donald both uncovers the man and adds to the conversation on Lincoln in every instance of import. His ability to cut to the core of historical issues and help the reader understand why they mattered is unmatched. For these reasons Donald's Lincoln has revived and added upon my appreciation for one of the United States's greatest leaders. I will be reading more Lincolniana very soon! ( )
  yorga2020 | Aug 30, 2020 |
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 |
Viser 1-5 af 23 (næste | vis alle)
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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I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.
Abraham Lincoln to Albert G. Hodges,
April 4, 1864
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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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Biografi om den amerikanske præsident (1809-1865).

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