Lessons from Lincoln

Peraino, Kevin. Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power. Crown. Oct. 2013. 432p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780307887207. $26. HIST

Peraino (former senior writer, Newsweek) considers Lincoln in the wider context of Atlantic politics and imperial ambitions, in a work filled with riveting and revealing descriptions of the competing interests and inner workings of the mid-19th-century American, British, and French governments. He examines six episodes in Lincoln’s political life—from his opposition to the Mexican War as a congressman to his efforts to block France’s empire building in Mexico during the American Civil War—episodes that made Lincoln conscious of America’s place in the world and of the limits and prospects of American global power. The author is especially effective in relating the foreign policy interests of such figures as Karl Marx, Lord Palmerston, and Napoléon III and in demonstrating that personality counted in making and enforcing policy in the United States and elsewhere. He overstates Lincoln’s supposed preoccupation with foreign policy matters during the Civil War and the extent to which Lincoln became a touchstone for later American policymakers, but he makes a strong case for Lincoln as a principled and pragmatic leader who realized American power by never confusing means with ends—a lesson worth learning for any age. VERDICT A recommended addition to Lincoln collections. [See Prepub Alert, 4/8/13.]—Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph’s Univ., Philadelphia

Winkle, Kenneth J. Lincoln’s Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, DC. Norton. 2013. 496p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780393081558. $27.95. HIST

Winkle (history, Univ. of Nebraska; The Young Eagle), a noted Lincoln biographer, keeps Lincoln and his administration center stage here. This is not a brick-and-mortar study of Civil War Washington, DC, as experienced by its average citizens but rather a description of political and military life in the U.S. capital from Lincoln’s term in the House of Representatives (1847–49) to the end of the Civil War. Winkle’s discussion of the future president’s life in Washington during the 1840s makes for an engaging introduction. Moving forward, he offers plenty of details and statistics—on everything from the size of herds of horses in the capital to wages for contraband slaves—demonstrating his impressive research; the results may be overwhelming for anyone with only a passing interest in the Civil War. Still, with his absorbing narrative style, Winkle makes an extraordinary amount of information reasonably accessible, and Lincoln and the city’s political context prove the backbone of this book. The extensive notes section will aid serious readers. (Index not seen.) VERDICT This well-written volume, with its distinctive perspective on America’s Civil War president, will appeal to anyone with a background in Civil War history.—Sara Miller, Atlanta