Monday, January 01, 2007

Book Review: Team of Rivals

I recently finished reading Team of Rivals, The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. This is a very interesting book, but it is definitely not for everyone. Team of Rivals is not a generic Civil War book; It is a focus on the Politics of President Lincoln and how he was viewed by those around him. I thought this might be an interesting book because I haven’t read many books on President Lincoln, and because I have heard a lot about the author.

Team of Rivals focuses on the politics of President Lincoln from his start in politics in the early 1850’s through the end of his life. During the Civil War, Mrs. Goodwin spends very little time discussing the battles and campaigns of the war, and much more time discussing Lincoln’s relationship with his staff. She tries to use how his contemporaries viewed him to paint a picture of the President and the First Lady that hasn’t been seen before. There are an incredible number of books on the Civil War available, and more are released every year, but this is the first I have seen that attempts to view President Lincoln in this light.

Reading Team of Rivals gave me a much stronger understanding of President Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, and the politics of the time. I had always assumed that politics during the civil war were much more noble and clean than they are today. I found that politics before and during the civil war were as decisive if not more so than they are today. In this time of political upheaval, most Presidents would have filled their staff with like minded individuals or people they owed political favors too. Lincoln brought his political rivals for the Republican ticket into his cabinet. He wanted the best and the brightest to advise him, and he felt that some of his rivals were exactly what the country needed to get through those tough times.

I would strongly recommend this book for anyone who is a Lincoln, Civil War, or Political junkie. However, at 753 pages plus index and notes, it is not a good introduction to the Civil War. It is also not a very light read. Mrs. Goodwin drags a few of her points out. It also takes a real commitment to make it through the first 80 pages. However, there is a wealth of information in the book, and Team of Rivals really gives an intimate picture of President Lincoln and his politics during the Civil War.

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