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A masterful work by Pulitzer Prize–winning author David Herbert Donald, Lincoln is a stunning portrait of Abraham 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.

Topics: Slavery, United States of America, Illinois, New York City, Virginia, Kentucky, Civil War Period, Abraham Lincoln, American Civil War, American History, Politics, War, American Government, Leadership, Military, Politicians , Race Relations, and Assassination

Published: Simon & Schuster on Dec 20, 2011
ISBN: 9781439126288
List price: $14.99
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The definitive Lincoln bio, and deservedly so.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
In the past few years it has become fashionable to take a lesser known politician and write a biography in defense of why he is one of the most under estimated leaders in our history. This is not the case with Lincoln. Lincoln is the most written about American of all time, outdoing even the likes of George Washington or Teddy Roosevelt. Lincoln is often ranked as the greatest President and it is appropriate that so much should be written on his presidentcy. David Herbert Donald writes in the narrative voice so that this biography reads like a novel. He does so in much the same way that David McCullough or Stephen Amborse wrote their historical works. While the text is 599 pages it is not hard to finish at all. Some of the interesting information that I took from the biography was Lincoln's relationship with his father. That perhaps if he had been able to step back and look at his fathers life, then he would not have been quite so hard on him. It is very interesting to note that his relationship with his eldest son Robert was strained and somewhat of a mirror of the relationship with his own father. It is also interesting to note that Lincoln was a very astute politician and not near the dark horse candidate as he is often portrayed. He was also one of nations leading raliroad attornies. One of the great areas of interst to me was the authors account throughout the whole book was in the area of Lincoln faith. As a boy and young man Lincoln never showed tany real interest in the church or ever even joined the church. This was one of the many things that caused a strain in the relationship between he and his father. However upon his election as the president and the beginnig of the wasr Lincoln often spoke to friends and wrote letters regarding his need to seek wisdom from a higher authority. Upon the death of his son Willie and the deep depression of his wife Mary Todd, he started seeking solace and comfort from the Father and reading the Bible on a daily basis, as well as conversing with a Presbyterian Pastor two to three times every week. He often started attending church services, but he still did no join the church. As the War between the States dragged on longer than he hoped, he often stated that our plans are not the same as the Almighty, who is soverign overall. The author has a tendency to confuse this with fatalism, instead of recognizing the sovernty of God. I quickly admit that I have a dog in this fight and a desire to see Lincoln as a believer. I am not neutral in this regard. I do belive and hope that Lincoln was and did become a believer. I alos have a tendency to belive he was one of if not our greatest Presidents.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Ever since historians have been polled to rank United States Presidents, Abraham Lincoln has consistently landed in the top three; many consider him our greatest president. Which is not to say Lincoln doesn't have strong detractors. Many of my politically inclined friends have attacked him left and right: For his appalling record on civil liberties and violation of constitutional principles--and some claim that Lincoln should not be seen as a champion of equal rights and racial justice--I've even known some to claim the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery at all. (I'd say this book--and every other reputable work of scholarship I've read--makes it idiotic to believe the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. The South seceded precisely because of the election of Lincoln who had made clear his opposition to the further expansion of slavery.)One could, at least if one quoted very selectively and out of context, find plenty of ammunition in this biography for that negative assessment. Lincoln's record on civil liberties is appalling. Suspension of habeas corpus leading to the arrest and imprisonment of political dissenters, opening of private mails, military tribunals trying civilians, censorship, even complete suppression of unfriendly newspapers, institution of the draft--even use of troops to suppress Democratic votes and threaten uncooperative state legislatures. Even Donald admits that Lincoln was responsible for "greater infringements on individual liberties than in any other period in American history." As for criticism of his racial policies, it's true that Lincoln famously wrote in a letter that the purpose of the war was to save the Union and, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." Despite that Donald doesn't omit any of that, his portrait of Lincoln still comes across as sympathetic and admiring. As Donald drew Lincoln, he was, above all, a pragmatist and canny politician who knowing the racist views of his fellow citizens tacked and maneuvered and steered a course towards emancipation as far and fast as the winds of public opinion would allow. Donald does well in giving you the context to understand why Lincoln would say the things he did and act the way he did. Indeed, that's the very purpose of the biography. In the Prologue Donald related that the one time he met President John F. Kennedy, the president told him that, "No one has a right to grade a President--not even poor James Buchanan--who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made his decisions." That's what Donald set out to do in this Lincoln biography and it hews close to Lincoln's point of view. It's a biography widely considered to be the best one-volume biography of Lincoln in print. It's exhaustive certainly, and sometimes exhausting. It's 600 pages in trade paperback in small font and, especially in those parts dealing with the minutia of Lincoln's law practice, I found myself less than riveted--but I had to admire Donald's research and scholarship throughout. About a third of the biography dealt with Lincoln's life before coming to national prominence in the Lincoln/Douglas debates, another third takes you through his campaign for president to the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation and the lowest point of the war, and the last third takes you through the rest of the war and Lincoln's assassination. No man up to that time of Lincoln's election had been "less prepared to be president" according to Donald--and maybe no man since. Lincoln had less than a year of formal schooling, no administrative experience upon taking office, and his political experience had been limited to 8 years as an Illinois State legislator and one very undistinguished term as a congressman. The personal and political challenge on his taking office were thus immense--but Donald believes he grew greatly in that office--and Donald certainly makes a strong case for that and makes you appreciate the crushing decisions Lincoln faced.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
David Herbert Donald provides a fascinating look into the 16th (and in my opinion, greatest) president's life. What separates this book from the rest of Lincoln biographies is his willingness to explore the human and flawed sides of Lincoln that so many of us forget.Donald also provides much context to the early life of Lincoln, which also seems to be forgotten. This is truly a magnificent piece of work that should be read, studied, and owned by all Lincoln scholars.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Probably the standard one-volume life of Lincoln, David Herbert Donald's biography shows the great skills Lincoln had that brought him to the Presidency, but it also attempts to blow away the myths that cluster around him since his assassination. In doing so, he allows the reader to wonder even more at the fact that a man in many ways ordinary could be so effective in so trying a time as the Civil War.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
very clear, concise biography; greatest emphasis is on pre-presidencyread more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This has received high praise, but to me this was a run of the mill biography. Hits all the high points that need hitting. However, I don't recall there being any startling reinterpretations or wonderful insights. It is a good biography for someone who has never read a Lincoln biography. However, for those people, I would still point them to Team of Rivals.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Over the past several years I have found myself growing more and more into a history buff. I have always been drawn to Abraham Lincoln, but I found that I really did not know much about his life. For anyone wishing to gain a great knowledge of Abraham Lincoln, "Lincoln" by David Herbert Donald is the resource.It covers the spectrum of his whole life. Donald creates a wonderful portrait of how Lincoln's early life, life as a circuit lawyer, life as a politician, live as a husband and father, and the tragedies he experienced all prepared him to be our 16th President. The author did a great job of showing his humanness and imperfections. Early on as President, Lincoln struggled to be decisive and sadly it was only after his re-election that he really grasped the role. But in the end he struck to the values and principles of life he learned early on. I was surprised at how emotional I felt during the vivid detail of the assassination and death.Part of the text was a bit repetitive especially the few final chapters, but it was well worth the read.I hope to put together several speeches based on the leadership principles and core values learned from the life of Abraham Lincoln.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
There were so many parts to Lincoln that I didn't know. I found this book to be fascinating and deepened my respect for this President.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I have always been fascinated by Lincoln, and have read many biographies of his life. I found this book to be very readable and illuminating. Lincoln's genius is carefully delineated, even his early set backs are learning experiences for himself and the reader read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

The definitive Lincoln bio, and deservedly so.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
In the past few years it has become fashionable to take a lesser known politician and write a biography in defense of why he is one of the most under estimated leaders in our history. This is not the case with Lincoln. Lincoln is the most written about American of all time, outdoing even the likes of George Washington or Teddy Roosevelt. Lincoln is often ranked as the greatest President and it is appropriate that so much should be written on his presidentcy. David Herbert Donald writes in the narrative voice so that this biography reads like a novel. He does so in much the same way that David McCullough or Stephen Amborse wrote their historical works. While the text is 599 pages it is not hard to finish at all. Some of the interesting information that I took from the biography was Lincoln's relationship with his father. That perhaps if he had been able to step back and look at his fathers life, then he would not have been quite so hard on him. It is very interesting to note that his relationship with his eldest son Robert was strained and somewhat of a mirror of the relationship with his own father. It is also interesting to note that Lincoln was a very astute politician and not near the dark horse candidate as he is often portrayed. He was also one of nations leading raliroad attornies. One of the great areas of interst to me was the authors account throughout the whole book was in the area of Lincoln faith. As a boy and young man Lincoln never showed tany real interest in the church or ever even joined the church. This was one of the many things that caused a strain in the relationship between he and his father. However upon his election as the president and the beginnig of the wasr Lincoln often spoke to friends and wrote letters regarding his need to seek wisdom from a higher authority. Upon the death of his son Willie and the deep depression of his wife Mary Todd, he started seeking solace and comfort from the Father and reading the Bible on a daily basis, as well as conversing with a Presbyterian Pastor two to three times every week. He often started attending church services, but he still did no join the church. As the War between the States dragged on longer than he hoped, he often stated that our plans are not the same as the Almighty, who is soverign overall. The author has a tendency to confuse this with fatalism, instead of recognizing the sovernty of God. I quickly admit that I have a dog in this fight and a desire to see Lincoln as a believer. I am not neutral in this regard. I do belive and hope that Lincoln was and did become a believer. I alos have a tendency to belive he was one of if not our greatest Presidents.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Ever since historians have been polled to rank United States Presidents, Abraham Lincoln has consistently landed in the top three; many consider him our greatest president. Which is not to say Lincoln doesn't have strong detractors. Many of my politically inclined friends have attacked him left and right: For his appalling record on civil liberties and violation of constitutional principles--and some claim that Lincoln should not be seen as a champion of equal rights and racial justice--I've even known some to claim the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery at all. (I'd say this book--and every other reputable work of scholarship I've read--makes it idiotic to believe the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. The South seceded precisely because of the election of Lincoln who had made clear his opposition to the further expansion of slavery.)One could, at least if one quoted very selectively and out of context, find plenty of ammunition in this biography for that negative assessment. Lincoln's record on civil liberties is appalling. Suspension of habeas corpus leading to the arrest and imprisonment of political dissenters, opening of private mails, military tribunals trying civilians, censorship, even complete suppression of unfriendly newspapers, institution of the draft--even use of troops to suppress Democratic votes and threaten uncooperative state legislatures. Even Donald admits that Lincoln was responsible for "greater infringements on individual liberties than in any other period in American history." As for criticism of his racial policies, it's true that Lincoln famously wrote in a letter that the purpose of the war was to save the Union and, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." Despite that Donald doesn't omit any of that, his portrait of Lincoln still comes across as sympathetic and admiring. As Donald drew Lincoln, he was, above all, a pragmatist and canny politician who knowing the racist views of his fellow citizens tacked and maneuvered and steered a course towards emancipation as far and fast as the winds of public opinion would allow. Donald does well in giving you the context to understand why Lincoln would say the things he did and act the way he did. Indeed, that's the very purpose of the biography. In the Prologue Donald related that the one time he met President John F. Kennedy, the president told him that, "No one has a right to grade a President--not even poor James Buchanan--who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made his decisions." That's what Donald set out to do in this Lincoln biography and it hews close to Lincoln's point of view. It's a biography widely considered to be the best one-volume biography of Lincoln in print. It's exhaustive certainly, and sometimes exhausting. It's 600 pages in trade paperback in small font and, especially in those parts dealing with the minutia of Lincoln's law practice, I found myself less than riveted--but I had to admire Donald's research and scholarship throughout. About a third of the biography dealt with Lincoln's life before coming to national prominence in the Lincoln/Douglas debates, another third takes you through his campaign for president to the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation and the lowest point of the war, and the last third takes you through the rest of the war and Lincoln's assassination. No man up to that time of Lincoln's election had been "less prepared to be president" according to Donald--and maybe no man since. Lincoln had less than a year of formal schooling, no administrative experience upon taking office, and his political experience had been limited to 8 years as an Illinois State legislator and one very undistinguished term as a congressman. The personal and political challenge on his taking office were thus immense--but Donald believes he grew greatly in that office--and Donald certainly makes a strong case for that and makes you appreciate the crushing decisions Lincoln faced.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
David Herbert Donald provides a fascinating look into the 16th (and in my opinion, greatest) president's life. What separates this book from the rest of Lincoln biographies is his willingness to explore the human and flawed sides of Lincoln that so many of us forget.Donald also provides much context to the early life of Lincoln, which also seems to be forgotten. This is truly a magnificent piece of work that should be read, studied, and owned by all Lincoln scholars.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Probably the standard one-volume life of Lincoln, David Herbert Donald's biography shows the great skills Lincoln had that brought him to the Presidency, but it also attempts to blow away the myths that cluster around him since his assassination. In doing so, he allows the reader to wonder even more at the fact that a man in many ways ordinary could be so effective in so trying a time as the Civil War.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
very clear, concise biography; greatest emphasis is on pre-presidency
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This has received high praise, but to me this was a run of the mill biography. Hits all the high points that need hitting. However, I don't recall there being any startling reinterpretations or wonderful insights. It is a good biography for someone who has never read a Lincoln biography. However, for those people, I would still point them to Team of Rivals.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Over the past several years I have found myself growing more and more into a history buff. I have always been drawn to Abraham Lincoln, but I found that I really did not know much about his life. For anyone wishing to gain a great knowledge of Abraham Lincoln, "Lincoln" by David Herbert Donald is the resource.It covers the spectrum of his whole life. Donald creates a wonderful portrait of how Lincoln's early life, life as a circuit lawyer, life as a politician, live as a husband and father, and the tragedies he experienced all prepared him to be our 16th President. The author did a great job of showing his humanness and imperfections. Early on as President, Lincoln struggled to be decisive and sadly it was only after his re-election that he really grasped the role. But in the end he struck to the values and principles of life he learned early on. I was surprised at how emotional I felt during the vivid detail of the assassination and death.Part of the text was a bit repetitive especially the few final chapters, but it was well worth the read.I hope to put together several speeches based on the leadership principles and core values learned from the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
There were so many parts to Lincoln that I didn't know. I found this book to be fascinating and deepened my respect for this President.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I have always been fascinated by Lincoln, and have read many biographies of his life. I found this book to be very readable and illuminating. Lincoln's genius is carefully delineated, even his early set backs are learning experiences for himself and the reader
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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