Journal of American History

Special Issue

The Journal of American History has created a companion online project for this special issue. It features the full text of the articles and the interchange; a bibliography of Lincoln in the JAH; a podcast; and a Web site on building the digital Lincoln created by Matthew Pinsker and the Journal of American History. See


“Young Men for War”: The Wide Awakes and Lincoln’s 1860 Presidential Campaign

A young Iowan Wide Awake in full uniform demonstrates for the 1860 Republican candidates Abraham Lincoln (for president), Hannibal Hamlin (for vice president), and Samuel R. Curtis (for congressman). His stern expression reflects the dire, militaristic seriousness that often replaced exuberant hoopla in the Wide Awake ranks. Reprinted from “‘The Prairies A-Blaze’: Iowa Wide-Awakes Carry Torches for Lincoln,” Iowa Heritage Illustrated, 77 (Spring 1996). Courtesy Floyd and Marion Rinhart Collection, The Ohio State University Libraries.
Courtesy Floyd and Marion Rinhart Collection, The Ohio State University Libraries.

Militaristic clubs of Republican youths who stumped for Abraham Lincoln—known as the Wide Awakes—were prominent in the tumultuous 1860 presidential race. Jon Grinspan explores the influence of this forgotten campaign organization on Lincoln’s election and the coming of the Civil War, highlighting the role of martial metaphors and the political involvement of young voters. The grassroots movement of the Wide Awakes demonstrates the surprising importance of novice political participants in their party’s campaign. The story of the Wide Awakes also helps explain how the 1860 campaign inadvertently led to the secession of the South. (pp. 357–78) Read online >

Lincoln and the Ethics of Emancipation: Universalism, Nationalism, Exceptionalism

This photograph of Abraham Lincoln was taken on October 1, 1858, after he had delivered a campaign speech in Pittsfield, Illinois, in his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. His shrewd but defensive gaze and correct dress reveal him as a cautious, astute, and determined politician. Photograph by Calvin Jackson. Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, LS-USZ6-2446.
Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photograph Division, LS-USZ6-2446.

Dorothy Ross argues that recent historians have emphasized Abraham Lincoln’s opposition to slavery to the neglect of his ardent nationalism. To begin addressing this imbalance, she examines his dual allegiance to liberal universalism and to the American nation—values that circumstances of history had cast as competing moral ideals—and finds that Lincoln used the exceptionalist idea of the American nation both to resolve his moral dilemma and to evade it. Putting Lincoln’s opposition to slavery in the context of his nationalism highlights the fact that allegiance to the nation had governed the country’s response to slavery since the founding of the Republic; it both blocked and advanced emancipation, expanded and limited commitment to human rights. (pp. 379–99) Read online >

The Not-So-Grand Review: Abraham Lincoln in the Journal of American History

James G. Randall influenced Lincoln scholars for decades by his argument, presented in a 1940 Mississippi Valley Historical Review article, that a “blundering generation” of politicians had brought on the Civil War. Courtesy the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Courtesy the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

In “The Not-So-Grand Review: Abraham Lincoln in the Journal of American History,” Allen C. Guelzo explores the appearances of the sixteenth president of the United States in the pages of the Mississippi Valley Historical Review and its successor, the JAH. He finds inadequate coverage of Lincoln in articles and substandard reviews of Lincoln books but notes that such tendencies mirror broader trends in Lincoln scholarship in the twentieth century. Those trends have led reviewers and authors to assess Lincoln, not on his own terms, but rather on his relationship with the Radical Republicans. Guelzo notes, however, that starting in the 1990s this course began to change, and he hopes the shift is indicative of an awakening of interest in and appreciation for Lincoln in the Journal of American History. (pp. 400–16) Read online >

Round Table

Lincoln Studies at the Bicentennial: A Round Table

Matthew Pinsker’s assessment of current trends in Lincoln scholarship plays on a question first asked by the historian James G. Randall in his 1936 article, “Has the Lincoln Theme Been Exhausted?” Like Randall, Pinsker answers in the negative; he sees a resurgence in research on Abraham Lincoln spurred by the 2009 bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth and by digital projects that expand access to evidence from the period. Pinsker argues that Lincoln studies offer a test case for the future of digital scholarship and a template for new ways to present a more realistic portrait of nineteenth-century American politics grounded in an ever-wider array of documents and records. Following Pinsker’s article, the Lincoln scholars Edward L. Ayers, Catherine Clinton, Michael F. Holt, Mark E. Neely Jr., and Douglas L. Wilson offer perspectives on the state of the field.

  • Lincoln Theme 2.0
    Matthew Pinsker (pp. 417–40) Read online >
  • Lincoln’s America 2.0
    Edward L. Ayers (pp. 441–46) Read online >
  • Turning and Turning in the Widening Gyre
    Catherine Clinton (pp. 447–450) Read online >
  • Lincoln Reconsidered
    Michael F. Holt (pp. 451–55) Read online >
  • Lincoln, Slavery, and the Nation
    Mark E. Neely Jr. (pp. 456–58) Read online >
  • Prospects for “Lincoln 2.5”
    Douglas L. Wilson (pp. 459–61) Read online >


The Global Lincoln

With the assistance of Richard Carwardine and Jay Sexton, the Interchange conversation features colleagues from several countries discussing the global Lincoln.

Eugenio F. Biagini, David W. Blight, Carolyn P. Boyd, Richard Carwardine, Kevin K. Gaines, Vinay Lal, Nicola Miller, Jörg Nagler, Jay Sexton, Adam I. P. Smith, Odd Arne Westad, (pp. 462–99) Read online >

Book Reviews

Sept. 2009, Vol. 96 No. 2

Alphabetical by the last name of the book's first author or editor.


Web Site Reviews

Web site Reviews are available without a subscription.

Editor’s Annual Report, 2008–2009

Letters to the Editor


Recent Scholarship

View “Recent Scholarship” listing online >

Recent Scholarship is available as a searchable database, Recent Scholarship Online >

cover image

On the cover:

On the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln in 1809, the Journal of American History has assembled a special issue devoted to his life and legacy. This photograph was taken by Henry F. Warren on the White House balcony on March 6, 1865, a few weeks before Lincoln was assassinated. Image Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Henry F. Warren Collection. See “Lincoln Theme 2.0”, (pp. 417–40)

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