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Lincoln (1995 original; edició 1995)
de David Herbert Donald (Autor)
Informació de l'obra
Lincoln de David Herbert Donald (1995)
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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.
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!
I was expecting something a little better from the famed writer Gore Vidal, but nonetheless this was interesting and worthwhile.
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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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Wikipedia en anglès (29)
David Herbert Donald's Lincoln is a stunningly original portrait of Lincoln's life and presidency. Donald brilliantly depicts Lincoln's gradual ascent from humble beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever-expanding political circles in Illinois, and finally to the presidency of a country divided by civil war. Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the gradual development of Lincoln's character, chronicling his tremendous capacity for evolution and growth, thus illustrating what made it possible for a man so inexperienced and so unprepared for the presidency to become a great moral leader. In the most troubled of times, here was a man who led the country out of slavery and preserved a shattered Union-- in short, one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen.
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Classificació Decimal de Dewey (DDC)973.7092History and Geography North America United States Administration of Abraham Lincoln, 1861-1865 Civil War
LCC (Clas. Bibl. Congrés EUA)
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David Herbert Donald's biography does not shy away from the legend of Lincoln. Truly, his political leadership and humanity have earned him that distinction. However, Donald also adds more context and nuance to the man who has become myth. Everything from his depression, to his tempestuous relationship with Mary Todd Lincoln, to his tendency toward moderation, to his final year are laid bare in this book.
It's this dedication to understanding Lincoln as a person that helps make Lincoln such a compelling and important read. ( )