You may not have heard of the Lincoln Prize, unless you are a historian, in which case you are certain to be familiar with it, since it is the most generous of its kind, offering a first prize of $40,000. Established by Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman to honor the best historical work each year on Lincoln and the Civil War era, the prize is now in its tenth year. First prize for this year, announced last week on Lincoln's birthday, went to Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, by Allen C. Guelzo (Eerdmans), and Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation, by John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger (Oxford Univ. Press). Guelzo, a B & C contributing editor, is dean of the Templeton Honors College and Grace F. Kea Professor of American History at Eastern College in Pennsylvania.
Guelzo's book, in fact, offers nothing less than a rewriting of American intellectual history. Set aside the log-cabin lore and prepare yourself for a feast of scholarship, in which Guelzo re-creates in rich detail the vibrant intellectual life of Lincoln's time. Lincoln, Guelzo persuades us, was above all a man of ideas: a reality obscured by the national mythology.
"We are too numbed by fanfares for the Common Man," Guelzo writes, "by Ralph Waldo Emerson's sniffling laments about the absence of American scholars, by Hollywood glorifications of sharp-shooting hillbillies in coonskin caps, to hear the frantic solemnity with which the most isolated patriarch on the most godforsaken acre of wiregrass would sit up all night alongside a wandering evangelist to discuss the intricacies of predestination and free will, or to hear a Scottish free thinker and an itinerant elder hold two thousand people spellbound for a week in 1829 debating the possibility of intelligent design in the universe."
That gives a taste of the forcefulness and the deeply informed imagination with which Guelzo makes his case. (Another sample can be found in the forthcoming March/April issue of B & C, in Guelzo's essay-review titled "Self-Improvement.") Rarely can a book of this kind be described as a "page-turner," but Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President will keep you reading by the nightlight if not by the flickering glow of a candle or a fire.
Visit Books & Cultureonline at BooksandCulture.com or subscribe here.Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer Presidentis available at most book retailers. Amazon.com's page for the book, however, includes blurbs from The Wall Street Journal and Publisher's Weekly.
See Eastern College's special page about Redeemer President.In an October 1999 article about the book for Associated Press(which appeared in The Washington Post, CNN, ABCNews, and elsewhere), AP religion writer Richard Ostling says, "Much has been written about Lincoln's belief and disbelief, but this account goes deeper."
"Dissecting [Lincoln's quest for meaning] forms the core of Redeemer President, and the job Mr. Guelzo does of it is masterly," wrote Bret Louis Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. "It is a testament to the strength of Redeemer Presidentthat the matters it addresses resist easy summary. The value of the book itself, however, is easy to state: Out of the countless volumes written about our 16th president, it ranks quite simply among the best." The January 3 article is available online, but for a small fee.
The March/April 1999issue of Family Policy, a publication from the Family Research Council, focused on Lincoln and his religion. Allen Guelzoauthored two of the articles, " Forging a Moral Vision for a 'Don't Care' Society" and " Learning From Lincoln: Six Steps Toward Moral Statesmanship." The issue also included " The Ambiguous Religion of Abraham Lincoln" by Mark A. Noll.The cover of the first issue of Books & Cultureexamined " The Struggle for Lincoln's Soul" in an article by historian Mark Noll (the article, not available on the Web in its B & C form, was later adapted for Christianity Today and is available online).
Allen Guelzo's articles for Books & Cultureinclude a review of David Herbert Donald's Lincoln (titled The Lost History of American Intellectual Life) in the November/December 1996 [page 25, print only] issue and "Soulless | If consciousness is only an illusion, it's the greatest mistake human beings have ever made" (Jan/Feb 1998, page 20, print only).
Guelzo also reviewedR. C. Sproul's Willing To Believe: The Controversy Over Free Will in the March 2, 1998 issue of Christianity Today.Books & Culture Corner appears Mondays at ChristianityToday.com. Earlier Books & Culture Corners include:Nancy Drew and the Wine-Dark Sea | The importance of good literature—and how to get young people to read it. By Sarah Cowie (Feb. 14, 2000)
Spring in Purgatory: Dante, Botticelli, C. S. Lewis, and a Lost Masterpiece | The most popular illustration of Dante's "Divine Comedy" has remained effectively "lost" for 500 years—although millions have seen it and admired it. By Kathryn Lindskoog (Feb. 7, 2000)
Playwright, Dissident, Czech President … Who Is This Man? | A new biography of áclav Havel fills in important blanks, but omits his theology. By Jim Sire (Jan. 31, 2000)
An Open Letter to the U. S. Black Religious, Intellectual, and Political Leadership Regarding AIDS and the Sexual Holocaust in Africa (Jan. 24, 2000)
Tony Blair's Devolution Revolution | Paving the way for peace in the United Kingdom. By Michael LeRoy (Jan. 17, 2000)
Loving the Alien, in Sickness and in Health | Too many recipients of health care today feel neither tolerated nor entitled, let alone loved. By Diane Komp (Jan. 10, 2000)
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