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Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas

Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas

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Allen C. Guelzo. Foreword by Michael Lind


Hardcover (Other formats: E-book)
232 pages, 6 x 9, 1 illustrations


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About the Book

Abraham Lincoln was a skilled politician, an inspirational leader, and a man of humor and pathos.  What many may not realize is how much he was also a man of ideas. Despite the most meager of formal educations, Lincoln’s tremendous intellectual curiosity drove him into the circle of Enlightenment philosophy and democratic political ideology. And from these, Lincoln developed a set of political convictions that guided him throughout his life and his presidency. Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas, a compilation of ten essays from Lincoln scholar, Allen C. Guelzo, uncovers the hidden sources of Lincoln’s ideas and examines the beliefs that directed his career and brought an end to slavery and the Civil War.

These essays reveal Lincoln to be a man of impressive intellectual probity and depth as well as a man of great contradictions. He was an apostle of freedom who did not believe in human free will; a champion of the Constitution who had to step outside of it in order to save it; a man of many acquaintances and admirers, but few friends; a man who opposed slavery but also opposed the abolition of it; a man of prudence who took more political risks than any other president.

Guelzo explores the many faces of Lincoln’s ideas, and especially the influence of the Founding Fathers and the great European champions of democracy. And he links the 16th president’s struggles with the issues of race, emancipation, religion, and civil liberties to the challenges these issues continue to offer to Americans today.

Lincoln played many roles in his life—lawyer, politician, president—but in each he was driven by a core of values, convictions, and beliefs about economics, society, and democracy. Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas is a broad and exciting survey of the ideas that made Lincoln great, just as we celebrate the bicentennial his birth.



Allen C. Guelzo, the author of Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America, is Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College. He is a member of the National Council for the Humanities and a two-time winner of the Lincoln Prize, for Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slaveryin America.


“Allen Guelzo is one of the finest Lincoln scholars of our generation, and this book of essays reveals once again a unique combination of impeccable scholarship with a wonderfully readable narrative style.”—Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Guelzo’s contribution is countering the quest for simple answers in explaining Lincoln’s actions, thoughts, and values, and challenging his familiar portrayal as a product of unalloyed American exceptionalism. Guelzo presents Lincoln as a self-taught, and therefore original, thinker in the best sense of the word, and concludes that “we need to know that Lincoln thought and what he thought about.” (24) In that effort, this book is a wonderful place to begin. Kenneth J. Winkle, Journal of Historical Biographies

"Thoughtful and meticulously documented with a wealth of notes, Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas is a welcome contribution to public and college library American History collections. " —James Cox, Midwest Book Reviews