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.
A mixture of visionary progressivism and repugnant racism Abraham Lincoln’s attitude toward slavery is the most troubling aspect of his public life one that gets a probing assessment in this study. Columbia historian and Bancroft Prize winner Foner (Free Soil Free Labor Free Men) traces the complexities of Lincoln’s evolving ideas about slavery and African Americans: while he detested slavery he also publicly rejected political and social equality for blacks dragged his feet (critics charged) on emancipating slaves and accepting black recruits into the Union army and floated schemes for “colonizing” freedmen overseas almost to war’s end. Foner situates this record within a lucid nuanced discussion of the era’s turbulent racial politics; in his account Lincoln is a canny operator cautiously navigating the racist attitudes of Northern whites prodded and sometimes willing to be prodded by abolitionists and racial egalitarians pressing faster reforms. But as Foner tells it Lincoln also embodies a society wide transformation in consciousness as the war’s upheavals and the dynamic new roles played by African Americans made previously unthinkable claims of freedom and equality seem inevitable. Lincoln is no paragon in Foner’s searching portrait but something more essential a politician with an open mind and a restless conscience. 16 pages of illus. 3 maps. (Oct.) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
Starred Review. 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.Do we need yet another book on Lincoln?... Well, yes, we do—if the book is by so richly informed a commentator as Eric Foner. Foner tackles what would seem to be an obvious topic, Lincoln and slavery, and manages to cast new light on it.... Because of his broad-ranging knowledge of the 19th century, Foner is able to provide the most thorough and judicious account of Lincoln's attitudes toward slavery that we have. --David S. Reynolds
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 Brion Davis, author of Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World
"A well orchestrated examination of Lincoln's changing views of slavery, bringing unforeseeable twists and a fresh sense of improbability to a familiar story." The 2011 Pulitzer Prize Committee
Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in History, the Bancroft Prize, and the Lincoln Prize: from a master historian, the story of Lincoln's--and the nation's--transformation through the crucible of slavery and emancipation.
: "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 Brion Davis, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus, Yale University, author of "Definitive and breathtaking: with dazzling clarity and authority, demonstrating a total command of his sources and a sense of moral justice that transcends history, Foner has done nothing less than provide the most persuasive book ever written on Lincoln's vital place in the fight for freedom in America. This volume stands alone in the field. It is not only the best account ever written on the subject; henceforth, it should be regarded as the only account." --Harold Holzer, author of "Eric Foner has done it again. explores the pivotal subject of Lincoln and slavery free from the mists of hagiography and the muck of denigration. With his usual stylish mastery, Foner advances enlightened debate over our greatest president, the origins and unfolding of the Civil War, and the abolition of southern slavery. His book marks an auspicious intellectual beginning to the sesquicentennial of the American Iliad." --Sean Wilentz, author of
About the Author
Eric Foner is the preeminent historian of his generation, highly respected by historians of every stripe--whether they specialize in political history or social history. His books have won the top awards in the profession, and he has been president of both major history organizations: the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians. He has worked on every detail of Give Me Liberty!, which displays all of his trademark strengths as a scholar, teacher, and writer. A specialist on the Civil War/Reconstruction period, he regularly teaches the nineteenth-century survey at Columbia University, where he is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History. In 2011, Foner's The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery won the Pulitzer Prize in History, the Bancroft Prize, and the Lincoln Prize.