Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years & The War Years

May 2017
43
Spain
#1
I've read most of the Will Durant's volumes of Story of Civilization, and now I wanted to jump to something more.

I came across with the books of Carl Sandburg and I was wondering how good they really are and get some feedback if this is a good read for me based that I've only read from the Durants when it comes to history.

I'm thinking about buying the 6 volume set: https://www.amazon.com/Abraham-Lincoln-Prairie-Years-War/dp/B00088ASWY

So, what are your thoughts?
 
Jul 2012
4,379
Here
#2
I've read most of the Will Durant's volumes of Story of Civilization, and now I wanted to jump to something more.

I came across with the books of Carl Sandburg and I was wondering how good they really are and get some feedback if this is a good read for me based that I've only read from the Durants when it comes to history.

I'm thinking about buying the 6 volume set: https://www.amazon.com/Abraham-Lincoln-Prairie-Years-War/dp/B00088ASWY

So, what are your thoughts?
I'm not sure why you are reading history written so long ago. History really isn't timeless in the way a great piece of fiction is. You will be understanding Lincoln and the war in the way white Americans of the 1920s-1940s understood him and a lot of that is romanticized foolishness. For instance, here is a line from Sandburg's Prairie Years:

"When he was eleven years old, Abe Lincoln's young body began to change. The juices and glands began to make a long, tall boy out of him.... As he took on more length, they said he was shooting up into the air like green corn in the summer of a good corn-year. So he grew. "

If that appeals to you, then give Sandburg a whirl. To me, its lame.

If you want to really understand Lincoln, read something written recently (say in the last 20 years). There are plenty of excellent books on him.
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
#3
My personal opinion is that Sandburg is a worthy read. He may have gotten a few thing wrong. (such as the Ann Rutledge romance) But what the hell. He gives us a feel for the times that no one else has. (Well... with the exception of the book by Margaret Leech "Reveille in Washington" … a great read.
 
May 2017
43
Spain
#4
I'm not sure why you are reading history written so long ago. History really isn't timeless in the way a great piece of fiction is. You will be understanding Lincoln and the war in the way white Americans of the 1920s-1940s understood him and a lot of that is romanticized foolishness. For instance, here is a line from Sandburg's Prairie Years:

"When he was eleven years old, Abe Lincoln's young body began to change. The juices and glands began to make a long, tall boy out of him.... As he took on more length, they said he was shooting up into the air like green corn in the summer of a good corn-year. So he grew. "

If that appeals to you, then give Sandburg a whirl. To me, its lame.

If you want to really understand Lincoln, read something written recently (say in the last 20 years). There are plenty of excellent books on him.

I'm new to history, I have no idea of what I should be reading. Just came across with these books and got curious and it seemed that it was a popular one, so I wondered if they might be of good value for me.
 
May 2017
43
Spain
#5
My personal opinion is that Sandburg is a worthy read. He may have gotten a few thing wrong. (such as the Ann Rutledge romance) But what the hell. He gives us a feel for the times that no one else has. (Well... with the exception of the book by Margaret Leech "Reveille in Washington" … a great read.
That's what I'm looking for, that feeling of time that some history books give.
 

Pedro

Forum Staff
Mar 2008
17,151
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
#6
You can download the M. Leech book for free from the internet archive.

https://archive.org/details/reveilleinwashin0leec

The great thing about free e-books is you can sample and find out if they are worth spending hard cash on a hard bound. Enjoy!

p.s. If I remember correctly there was (or is) a three vol. paperback edition of Sandburg´s Lincoln. Condensed but that is a plus. I think spending money for the six volume set would be a waste for anyone who is not doing scholarly comparisons.
 
Jun 2017
422
USA
#8
I'm not sure why you are reading history written so long ago. History really isn't timeless in the way a great piece of fiction is. You will be understanding Lincoln and the war in the way white Americans of the 1920s-1940s understood him and a lot of that is romanticized foolishness. For instance, here is a line from Sandburg's Prairie Years:

"When he was eleven years old, Abe Lincoln's young body began to change. The juices and glands began to make a long, tall boy out of him.... As he took on more length, they said he was shooting up into the air like green corn in the summer of a good corn-year. So he grew. "

If that appeals to you, then give Sandburg a whirl. To me, its lame.

If you want to really understand Lincoln, read something written recently (say in the last 20 years). There are plenty of excellent books on him.
If you want to read something like The 13th Amendment you may as well just watch Lincoln. No one does serious treatment of someone like Lincoln this far on in time, it is either revisionism or attempts to be sensational.
 
Jul 2012
4,379
Here
#10
I'm new to history, I have no idea of what I should be reading. Just came across with these books and got curious and it seemed that it was a popular one, so I wondered if they might be of good value for me.
I understand how confusing history is to someone who is new to it. Don't be sucked in by someone telling you a writer in the 1940s captured the mid-19th century better than current historians (especially one who wasn't a trained historian).

Historians today know far more about the 19th century than did anyone 80 years ago. The amount of evidence available today and the means to analyse it are far superior to what historians had back then. I was made to read the old stuff in grad school because it helps to know how history has changed. Books written in the 1940s explain the 1940s better than they explain the 19th century. Almost all of it is weak compared to the great majority of what is written recently. Like all other endeavors beside true "art," the skill set of a historian evolves over time. For a beginner in history, reading a history book written in the 1940s is comparable to calling a 1940s mechanic when your 2015 car won't start.

As for old time historians capturing the "feel" of the 19th century better than recent historians, how would someone who was not living in the 19th century know the "feeling" they were getting about the era was accurate? If you want a warm and fuzzy feeling, read the old stuff. If you want the best analysis of what really happened, read something new.
 
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