Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power” as Want to Read:
Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  881 ratings  ·  42 reviews
An original and deeply insightful biography of Abraham Lincoln, already awarded the prestigious Lincoln Prize.

As a defender of national unity, a leader in war, and the emancipator of slaves, Abraham Lincoln lays ample claim to being the greatest of our presidents. But the story of his rise to greatness is as complex as it is compelling. In this superb biography, the highly
Hardcover, 369 pages
Published January 10th 2006 by Knopf (first published January 10th 2003)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Lincoln, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Lincoln

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,709)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Sara ♥
All right. I read this book for a book challenge, and am supposed to tell what I thought Lincoln's greatest accomplishments and scandals were. So here's what I came up with:

This book was EXTREMELY pro-Lincoln.... In fact, I think the author may be the president of the Abraham Lincoln fan-club... I don't know much about Lincoln (at ALL) other than what I read, so I tried to take it and draw my own conclusions. So, I'm just going to call it as I see it:

Freeing the slaves (of cours
During Lincoln’s time, the southern states were in a political war with the northern states. This escalated to such a bad degree that the civil war was inevitable. When Lincoln was elected as president, the first states started to secede followed by the rest of the south. The north had won the war and this had led up to Lincoln’s death, where the book had ended.

Richard Carwardine has writing style which is not the easiest to read. It is all informational story telling. The language is a bit dif
An excellent political biography of Lincoln that focuses on his development as a Whig in central Illinois, his movement into the new Republican party in the 1850s due to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and his efforts to keep the diverse new party together whether in late 1850s Illinois or in the White House. It covers other events in his life mainly in passing, but shows Lincoln as a principled and canny political realist, wedded firmly to the Declaration and Constitution and the party's to which he p ...more
Having been introduced to Lincoln the political figure in several previous biographies, I was interested to get more into that aspect of his character with this one.
However, Carwardine seems to have cobbled his book together from several other accounts-- not badly, but not quite "groundbreaking".

The structures of Carwardine's contribution are pretty standard Lincoln biography: he begins with the relationship of Lincoln the frontiersman to Lincoln the politician; ambition and self-reliance were
Doug May
Of the three lincoln books I have read this is by far the best. I like the fact that it is written by a Brit so I know I am not getting an American triumphalist bias though this author certainly admires Lincoln a great deal . Carwardine has a keen sense of faith coming from non-conformist British roots which also appeals to me a great deal especially in studying Lincoln who is so enigmatic in his personal faith. In the end the portrayal is sufficient sympathetic to elicit a tear at the despicabl ...more
This book was interesting, but it seemed to have lacked something. It told a lot about Lincoln's political life, and his campaigns. I liked that it kept a good perspective on Lincoln's statements and views. Lincoln said a lot of things that may not have reflected his long-term goals or his personal views. He said a lot of these things to meet specific needs with specific groups. Some of these statements have been taken out of context to make Lincoln look hypocritical, but I think this book handl ...more
Elizabeth Finnegan

This book was a pleasure for me to read on many different levels. Richard Carwardine was the professor who encouraged me to study American History at University. This book brought back happy memories of his carefully crafted lectures in which he would combine his extensive knowledge of history with a masterful storytelling technique and a wry sense of humor. All of which is evident in this book.
As an undergraduate I only wrote two first class essays and one of them focused on comparing Abraha
Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power, written by Richard Carwardine, is a political biography which explores the foundations of Abraham Lincoln’s power and authority during his ascent from inexperienced commoner to president of the United States. Carwardine states early on that the three bases of Lincoln’s power were his personal ambition, the ability to gauge public opinion, and the use of party communications and political networks. These three bases are detailed throughout the chronologically ...more
Timmy De Leon
I did it! I finished reading Abraham Lincoln's biography (political life)! I was so eager to finish this book because I was drowned with political terminologies. Keep a dictionary beside you when reading someone's political life.

This book is more about the good things Lincoln have accomplished before, during, and after his presidency (his death). He was the great emancipator of slaves and a preserver of American patriotism. I request that you read the book to know more. The biography is so long,
If you're at all interested in learning more about Lincoln than what you might find in the "standard" biographies, this is the book for you. Carwardine won the 2004 Lincoln Prize for this work, in which he takes the biographical "facts" of his life (both personal and political) and traces Lincoln's understanding of, and use of, (1) power, (2) public sentiment, and (3) religious sentiment, to become arguably one of the great American presidents.

I would suggest this work to anyone who has maybe al
I've read several books on President Lincoln but this is for me the most insightful about the terrible pressures on him from both sides. His instincts were pure and those who say that the Civil War was not fought over slavery would be well served by reading this. Each generation of Americans should be able to know and understand all of our past presidents... Mr. Lincoln is in the top 2 for me.
James Stevens
While this book is hard to follow, Carwardine has done a thorough review of how Lincoln's thinking and political influence grew from his years in Springfield until his death. Of particularly interest is Carwardine's inclusion of the matter of Lincoln's faith, often ignored by many biographers and overdone by the Christian community. This is a heavy study of Lincoln, but one worth the read.
Cecelia Bytheway
A detailed discussion of Lincolns political leaning throughout his adult life and political career. At first I thought it painted Lincoln in a bad light, but it was very complete of his political leaning and discussed his great characteristics which lead the nation through the civil war.
I liked this book. It had a lot of detail and people.
Michael Farnsworth
Good Read. Explores one one hand the morality of abolition and on the other hand, the politics needed to get there. Would recommend to any American who follows current issues.
Don Weidinger
Detailed journey of life, Founders abolished slave trade and within new territories, opposed as evil, Douglas and dems desired to change the path of the Founders and allow new states to choose slavery or not, slavery is trying to control others without consent as Lincoln described, politicians are either a leader follower or agitator, Lincoln was clearly a leader, cabinet of dems whigs repubs, SC secession similar to 1830, imperialist ambitions of dems on Cuba and others, wonderful self reliance ...more
I actually listened to this book while I was reading another more straight- forward biography. This author focused on Lincoln's strong political skills, his almost perfect sense of timing, his ambition, his ability to form coalitions, and his use of a burgeoning evangelical Christian movement to help him mobilize the country in support of the war despite his own beliefs which were more deist than Christian. The author did say, however, that Lincoln seemed to become more religious rather than jus ...more
Brian Collins
This is not a biography of Lincoln. Instead it looks at Lincoln as a politician. Carwardine examines his political viewpoint, objectives, and how these changed (or did not change) over time. He also looks at how Lincoln gained power through the party process and how he governed. I gained a greater appreciation for Lincoln's skill as a political leader and as president. Carwardine also paid attention to Lincoln's religious milieu and his own religious beliefs.
I really enjoyed this book! The author did a good job of showing us who Lincoln is and what he stood for without making up mythical legends. I would have liked to see a bit more of Civil War battle field details but I guess this isn't a Civil War book. Its a biography.

Lincoln really impresses me and I now understand why he is revered like Washington, Adams, and other founding fathers. My hats off to the great emancipator!!!

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book is a glimpse into the inner workings and early development of our Nation's political machine. It shows how people from different backgrounds, with highly differing moral, ethical, and political views engaged in overcoming slavery. It also gives a more detailed account, including the mind and heart so much as they can be seen in retrospect of the man who was the catalyst for slavery's end in America.
I enjoyed this book a lot. I wouldn't call it so much a biography, but more of a commentary on Lincoln's life and presidency. What I enjoyed from this book, which I hadn't seen much of in other books, was discussion of Lincoln's religious views and growth thereof. Interesting to see how those views/beliefs changed over the course of his presidency and the war.
Outstanding book, describes the evolution of Lincoln's ideas, political stances and influences in his life. It is not a biography but particularly covers his political career. Many details of elections and opponents haven't read elsewhere. Particularly liked learning his complicated rel-igious background and how he came to know God during his presidency.
Cawardine is British which only underscores his achievement in this this book. His style is readable and his research impeccable. Even with so many excellent works available I'd have to say Carwardine provides a compelling read and a distinctive look at Mr. Lincoln, although not quite approaching "Team of Rivals."
too academic and very detailed/slow at times, focuses almost exclusively on political discussions and thinking of linking before and during presidency. Still interesting and insightful on transition from Whig to starting republican party and how Lincoln's views changed on Slavery as public opinion morphed.
Aaron Million
Decent book about Lincoln's political thought, and the increasing role that religion played in his outlook as he aged. Dry at times, but the book picked up in the second half. There are so many books out there about Lincoln, yet I never get tired of reading about him!
A very scholarly treatment of Lincoln, more so than I would have liked. I found it a very difficult read mainly due to the author jumping around in time. But, it was well worth the read. I have new respect for Lincoln he was quite a man.
The book was organized in such a way (if at all) that made it very hard to follow. Also, this is really heavy on dates, names, etc. and is really lacking the anecdotal touch that makes books like this interesting, at least to me.
I didn't get far into this, but I wonder if it could possibly get better. Boring, Boring, Boring. I can do well in these bio-books about heroic figures of the past, but this one did not capture me quick enough.
Learned quite a bit about Lincoln's political career. The book is really informative, but the writing was pretty convoluted and felt like the author just wrote big words because he could.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 56 57 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Lincoln  President-Elect : Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter, 1860-1861
  • Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words
  • Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President
  • Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography
  • Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural
  • The Age of Lincoln
  • The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows
  • Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer
  • 1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History
  • Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution
  • Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters
  • Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography
  • Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy
  • Lincoln: An Illustrated Biography
  • The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics
  • Lincoln and His Admirals
  • "We are Lincoln Men": Abraham Lincoln and His Friends
Lincoln (Profiles in Power) Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America Transatlantic Revivalism: Popular Evangelicalism in Britain and America, 1790$1865 The Global Lincoln

Share This Book