Abraham Lincoln: A Biography

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SIU Press, 2008 M09 26 - 534 pages
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Long considered a classic, Benjamin P. Thomas's Abraham Lincoln: A Biography takes an incisive look at one of American history's greatest figures. Originally published in 1952 to wide acclaim, this eloquent account rises above previously romanticized depictions of the sixteenth president to reveal the real Lincoln: a complex, shrewd, and dynamic individual whose exceptional life has long intrigued the public.

Thomas traces the president from his hardscrabble beginnings and early political career, through his years as an Illinois lawyer and his presidency during the Civil War. Although Lincoln is appropriately placed against the backdrop of the dramatic times in which he lived, the author's true focus is on Lincoln the man and his intricate personality. While Thomas pays tribute to Lincoln's many virtues and accomplishments, he is careful not to dramatize a persona already larger than life in the American imagination. Instead he presents a candid and balanced representation that provides compelling insight into Lincoln's true character and the elements that forged him into an extraordinary leader. Thomas portrays Lincoln as a man whose conviction, resourcefulness, and inner strength enabled him to lead the nation through the most violent crossroads in its history.

Thomas's direct, readable narrative is concise while losing none of the crucial details of Lincoln's remarkable life. The volume's clarity of style makes it accessible to beginners, but it is complex and nuanced enough to interest longtime Lincoln scholars. After more than half a century, Abraham Lincoln: A Biography is still an essential source for anyone interested in learning more about the many facets of the sixteenth president, and it remains the definitive single-volume work on the life of an American legend.


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This book has a glaring error. It says that Thomas Lincoln may have died not long after he married Nancy Hanks in 1806. If that had been the case, Abraham Lincoln would not have lived as he was born in 1809 to Thomas and Nancy. Abraham also mentioned his father when he corresponded with his stepbrother John D. Johnston. Thomas Lincoln died in 1851 as shown on his gravestone.  

Selected pages


The Short and Simple Annals of the Poof
Young Man on His Own
Frontier Legislator His Love Affairs
Courtship and Marriage
Lawyer Politician
The Gentleman from Illinois
Echoes of National Conflict
Lincoln Reenters Politics
Peace or a Sword
A War for Democracy
Shadows on the White House
McClellan in Command
The Occasion is Piled High with Difficulty
The Signs Look Better
There Are No Lincoln Men
Profile of a President

A Political Plunge
Defeated for the Senate
The Making of a President
To Bind Up the Nations Wounds

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About the author (2008)

Benjamin P. Thomas (1902-56) was the author of Lincoln's New Salem; Portrait for Posterity:

Lincoln and His Biographers; and Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War (completed after his death by Harold M. Hyman). For many years he was the secretary of the Abraham Lincoln Association.

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