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Books on Lincoln

Books written and edited by Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson, co-directors of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College, have received wide acclaim, both from scholars in the field and from reviewers in the news media. Wrote one reviewer: "Wilson and Davis have contributed significantly to the rise in quantity and quality of Lincoln scholarship."

This page lists only their most recent books. Additional publications are listed in the curricula vitae of Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The Lincoln Studies Center Edition
Edited by Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson, University of Illinois Press, 2008. The most complete record ever assembled of the landmark Lincoln-Douglas debates, published on their 150th anniversary The debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas may be the most consequential in American history -- dealing with one momentous, nation-threatening issue: slavery. This edition is the first to provide a text founded on all known records, rather than following one or another of the partisan and sometimes widely varying newspaper accounts. It provides numerous aids to help the modern reader understand the debates, including extensive introductory material, annotations, commentary, and a glossary -- bringing readers as close as possible to the original words of these two remarkable men.

Critical praise: "No one with even a passing interest in the history of American politics can afford not to read it." -- Allen C. Guelzo, author of Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America. "This is an outstanding achievement of meticulous scholarship, one of supreme importance. This edition will serve as the standard reference work on the debates as well as the most accessible text for students and others encountering the debates for the first time." -- David Zarefsky, author of Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate

Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words

Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words
By Douglas L. Wilson, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Winner of the 2007 Lincoln Prize, this book tells how Abraham Lincoln developed his writing skills, how they served him for a time as a hidden presidential asset, and how writing came to play an increasingly important role in his presidency. Since his assassination, no American's words have been more familiar or more admired than Lincoln's. Lincoln's Sword attempts to demonstrate that exploring Lincoln's presidential writing provides a window on his presidency and a key to his accomplishments. Writes Doris Kearns Goodwin: "Never has the craft of Lincoln's writing been more brilliantly revealed."


Herndon's LincolnHerndon's Lincoln
By William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, edited by Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, University of Illinois Press, 2006. This account of Abraham Lincoln's pre-presidential life was first published in 1889 and has become a classic because it is based on the research and personal knowledge of Lincoln's law partner, William H. Herndon. Controversial when it first appeared for its frank treatment of Lincoln's personal life, this book, more than any other, shaped the public perception of America's most famous President and has been described by Don E. Fehrenbacher as "the most influential biography of Lincoln ever published." This new edition, the first in 75 years, restores the original text and includes extensive annotation.


The Life of Abraham LincolnThe Life of Abraham Lincoln
By Ward Hill Lamon, edited by Rodney Davis, University of Nebraska Press, 1999. Controversial when it was published because of its frank discussion of Lincoln's ancestry, courtships and marriage, religion, and other sensitive subjects, this 1872 biography was a challenge to the laudatory Lincoln biographies previously published. Though scorned by the public for its candor about Lincoln's pre-presidential life and never reprinted until now, it was the first Lincoln biography to be based on the matchless materials collected by Lincoln's law partner William H. Herndon and was in many ways a model for the classic biography published by Herndon and Jesse W. Weik.


Honor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham LincolnHonor's Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln
By Douglas L. Wilson, Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. Focusing on 11 crucial years of Lincoln's early life, 1831-1842, Honor's Voice re-examines the historical evidence behind the familiar legend of Lincoln's rise from obscurity to prominence. In so doing, it attempts to shed light on episodes and aspects of Lincoln's early life largely ignored or neglected by his biographers. According to The New York Times Book Review, "This book establishes Wilson as the leading historian of the young and private Lincoln." Listed in 100 Essential Lincoln Books, it received numerous awards, including The Lincoln Prize for 1999.


Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham LincolnHerndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln
Edited by Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, University of Illinois Press, 1998. William H. Herndon, Lincoln law partner and biographer, carried on one of the first oral history projects in America by collecting letters and statements about Lincoln and interviewing people who knew him. The resulting indispensable archive of primary source material is presented in its entirety for the first time in Herndon's Informants. A research and editorial effort that required nine years, it has been called by James M. McPherson in the New York Review of Books "a monumental achievement of scholarship." It is listed in 100 Essential Lincoln Books, which describes Herndon's Informants as "a godsend to scholars" and as "an essential tool for any Lincoln biography." The full text of Herndon's Informants is now freely accessible online through University of Illinois Press.


Lincoln Before Washington: New Perspectives on the Illinois YearsLincoln Before Washington: New Perspectives on the Illinois Years
By Douglas L. Wilson, University of Illinois Press, 1997. These essays focus on problems and issues in Lincoln's pre-presidential years. Addressing such varied topics as Lincoln's early reading, his relationship to Jefferson, his favorite poem, and his love affair with Ann Rutledge, the essays are also part of a re-assessment of Lincoln sources. Central to this re-assessment is the much-disputed role of William H. Herndon, Lincoln's law partner and biographer, and the standing and reliability of the evidence Herndon collected on Lincoln's life before being elected President.

The History of Illinois by Governor Thomas FordThe History of Illinois by Governor Thomas Ford
Edited by Rodney O. Davis, University of Illinois Press, 1995. The author of this historical classic was raised in Illinois during its earliest years. A frontier lawyer, he served as circuit judge and later as Governor. First published in 1854, Ford's History of Illinois provides firsthand background for the political as well as the social culture in Illinois from which Abraham Lincoln emerged. Especially noteworthy are Ford's acute and sometimes abrasive assessments of Illinois politicians and political institutions, his accounts of the early slavery controversy, the Black Hawk War, violence and vigilantism, and the conflict over the Mormons.

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