Chuck's Reviews > Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
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May 09, 08

Read in May, 2008

Team of Rivals is a first-rate and captivating narrative, which portrays Lincoln's humanity, warts and all. Although focusing on the Civil War period, this book does not provide any extensive battlefield accounts or descriptions of military strategy, but those accounts are available elsewhere. Rather, in this work the author shows how a relatively inexperienced "rail-splitter" Lincoln gradually attained the stature of a beloved and enormously impressive president. He did not start out as an emancipator of slaves, nor did he initially have a sure sense as commander-in-chief. But one of Lincoln's key strengths was his lack of ego; his humility, and recognition of others' talent -- wherever it might lie -- allowed him to forge a "team of rivals" that provided him with an extraordinarily successful cabinet, and eventually to identify and appoint highly effective military leaders. With this support, and his ability to admit and correct his own mistakes, Lincoln became a towering figure in United States political history.

Due to the contentious plagiarism charges against Goodwin concerning one of her earlier books, I had avoided reading anything by her until now. But that issue has apparently been settled, and Goodwin must be commended for her astonishing command of historical sources and her ability to synthesize a wealth of material into a compelling and readable account that is neither condescending nor dumbed down.
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