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James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity
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James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  255 ratings  ·  18 reviews
A biography of James Monroe who became the fifth president of the United States in 1816. Ammon recreates his remarkable career, through his service in the revolutionary army, the Confederation Congress, to his exertions in James Madison's cabinet and his subsequent presidency.
Paperback, 706 pages
Published 1990 by University of Virginia Press (first published 1971)
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“James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity” by Harry Ammon was originally published in 1971, making it the oldest of the well-read biographies of our fifth president (though this is not a particularly crowded field). Ammon is formerly a Professor of History at Southern Illinois University and the author of “The Genet Mission.”

Long regarded as a “go to” biography of Monroe, Ammon’s book is clearly intended primarily to inform and not to entertain. Like
Brian Schwartz
Harry Ammon tackles a tough subject in his biography of James Monroe because Monroe left scant information about his life for historians to examine. Unlike the Adams, who were compulsive savers of correspondence and records, Monroe destroyed them routinely.

We don't really get to know James Monroe, the man. Nor do we get to know much about his wife, Elizabeth.

Ammon is superb in his policy and political analysis. This is a good book for presidential biography wonks. Ammon comes up short in animati
A very solid, informative read. It tended to be somewhat on the flattering side, but it seemed relatively objective. I learned a great deal about this period and it showed very nicely how Monroe fit into the succession of Presidents, and particularly his relationships with jefferson and madison.

I'd recommend it.
James Monroe is one of our more overlooked Founding Fathers; in fat, he is often not considered one of the Founding Fathers at all, or at least is seen as a more peripheral one. It is rather astonishing, when one considers that he fought in the Revolution under Washington, rising to the rank of Colonel, represented his constituents in the Virginia Assembly, became the Washington Administration's Minister to France, was elected Governor of Virginia, helped negotiate the Lousinan Purchase, became ...more
Jeremy Perron
James Monroe, although not our most exciting president, was certainly popular being the last president to run unopposed in the election of 1820. I think there is some debate over whether we can call James Monroe a Founding Father. Although he is certainly of the founding generation, he played only a minor role in founding of the country. He was a company officer in the Army of George Washington, fighting in the famous Battle of Trenton in which Washington and his men crossed the Delaware to surp ...more
Monroe is unjustly criticized sometimes. He was ethical and sincere, and he did a bang-up job working as a diplomat and being a dutiful president. He just had a lot of politics swirling around him as the Revolutionary generation headed into retirement and all the next generation struggled to take their places in positions of power. Everyone wanted to drag Monroe into fights and scandals and he just wanted to be neutral and make an awesome country with a respected and respectful place in the worl ...more
This is one of the best biographies on the not only the life of James Monroe but on the development of the United States role in world affairs. The author clearly assesses not only the role that Monroe played but also the exogenous factors that led to the development of the country. By framing this through Monroe's life we can clearly see his development along with that of the country at clear and critical junctures. From the early days of the revolution to the diplomacy of Europe to his time as ...more
Great if you want a super detailed blow-by-blow account of his presidency. Not so great if you want to know about his personal life.
Bryan Craig
This is a well-written and balanced biography on Monroe. I was a little disappointed with the fact that his presidency is not covered more, but he lived a full life after all. This still is the standard.
For a thick presidential biography, this one is not very good. a lot of details that didn't really need to be in there, and I didn't feel like I knew Monroe as well as I should have after reading it.
A very thorough and enlightnening read. No one will read this book unless they're really interested, but Ammon does a great job of showing Monroe as well as possible.
Aug 02, 2007 Tom rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Historians
Shelves: biography
This Madison biography is not for casual readers at nigh on 600 pages but lovers of American history and biographies should enjoy it immensely.
Sep 07, 2007 Robert rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history buffs
If you want to know about the growing pains of a young nation, this book is it. If you want to be inspired, read something else.
A terrific start to delving into this, the last great founder of the nation.
Good for dedicated Presidential historians.
End Notes, 161 Pages.
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James Monroe: A Bibliography The Genet Mission

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