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The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slaveryby Eric Foner
Synopses & Reviews
In this landmark work of deep scholarship and insight, Eric Foner gives us the definitive history of Lincoln and the end of slavery in America. Foner begins with Lincoln's youth in Indiana and Illinois and follows the trajectory of his career across an increasingly tense and shifting political terrain from Illinois to Washington, D.C. Although naturally anti-slavery for as long as he can remember, Lincoln scrupulously holds to the position that the Constitution protects the institution in the original slave states. But the political landscape is transformed in 1854 when the Kansas-Nebraska Act makes the expansion of slavery a national issue.
A man of considered words and deliberate actions, Lincoln navigates the dynamic politics deftly, taking measured steps, often along a path forged by abolitionists and radicals in his party. Lincoln rises to leadership in the new Republican Party by calibrating his politics to the broadest possible antislavery coalition. As president of a divided nation and commander in chief at war, displaying a similar compound of pragmatism and principle, Lincoln finally embraces what he calls the Civil War's fundamental and astounding result: the immediate, uncompensated abolition of slavery and recognition of blacks as American citizens.
Foner's Lincoln emerges as a leader, one whose greatness lies in his capacity for moral and political growth through real engagement with allies and critics alike. This powerful work will transform our understanding of the nation's greatest president and the issue that mattered most.
"Original and compelling....In the vast library on Lincoln, Foner's book stands out as the most sensible and sensitive reading of Lincoln's lifetime involvement with slavery and the most insightful assessment of Lincoln's — and indeed America's — imperative to move toward freedom lest it be lost. An essential work for all Americans." Library Journal, Starred Review
"No one else has written about [Lincoln's] trajectory of change with such balance, fairness, depth of analysis, and lucid precision of language." San Francisco Chronicle
"While many thousands of books deal with Lincoln and slavery, Eric Foner has written the definitive account of this crucial subject, illuminating in a highly original and profound way the interactions of race, slavery, public opinion, politics, and Lincoln's own character that led to the wholly improbable uncompensated emancipation of some four million slaves. Even seasoned historians will acquire fresh and new perspectives from reading The Fiery Trial." David S. Reynolds, The New York Times Book Review
"Moving and rewarding....A master historian at work." David W. Blight
"Do we need another book on Lincoln? Yes, we do — if the book is by so richly informed a commentator as Eric Foner." James M. McPherson, New York Review of Books
"A masterwork [by] the preeminent historian of the Civil War era." Boston Globe
Selected as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, this landmark work gives us a definitive account of Lincoln's lifelong engagement with the nation's critical issue: American slavery. A master historian, Eric Foner draws Lincoln and the broader history of the period into perfect balance. We see Lincoln, a pragmatic politician grounded in principle, deftly navigating the dynamic politics of antislavery, secession, and civil war. Lincoln's greatness emerges from his capacity for moral and political growth.
About the Author
Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, where he earned his B.A. and Ph.D. In his teaching and scholarship, Foner focuses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and nineteenth-century America. His most recent book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize, and the Lincoln Prize. His Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, won the Bancroft, Parkman, and Los Angeles Times Book prizes and remains the standard history of the period. In 2006 Foner received the Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching at Columbia University. He has served as president of the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the Society of American Historians.
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