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Why, in the never-ceasing torrent of books on Abraham Lincoln, should readers pause for this one? Yes, it is by the Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University, and it has been awarded the prestigious Lincoln Prize. But the answer is not in the accoutrements but in the volume itself.

Carwardine's portrait of Lincoln as a political leader is marked by unusual insight into the man—his ambitious guile as well as his charitable self-restraint—in combination with unusual wisdom about his circumstances—the demands of party politics as well as the realities of brutal warfare.

Although this book does not concentrate on religion as such, Carwardine provides a perceptive account of Lincoln's lifelong engagement with Scripture and his trust in mysterious Providence that grew during his years in the White House. He also explains better than any other historian why Lincoln's not-quite-Christian personal beliefs fit so well with the evangelical Protestant energy of the Whig and Republican parties that put him into power. The result, taken in the round, is the best book on Lincoln since Allen Guelzo's superb Redeemer President (1999). These two are simply as good as it gets.

Related Elsewhere:

Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power is available from and other book retailers.

The book was discussed on CSPAN's Book TV.

An interview with author Richard Carwardine is available from

More information is available from Knopf.

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In the Magazine

May 2006

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