Tag Archives: Biography/Autobiography

Thomas Jefferson: A Brief Biography

In this small jewel of a biography, readers will become acquainted with the mind and temperament of Thomas Jefferson as written by the greatest of Jefferson scholars. Dumas Malone, author of the unrivaled six-volume biography, Jefferson and His Time, brought fifty years of research and scholarship to the writing of this essay. It is a life story told with great respect and without hero worship.

Alexander Hamilton

In the first full-length biography of Alexander Hamilton in decades, National Book Award winner Ron Chernow tells the riveting story of a man who overcame all odds to shape, inspire, and scandalize the newborn America. According to historian Joseph Ellis, Alexander Hamilton is “a robust full-length portrait, in my view the best ever written, of the most brilliant, charismatic and dangerous founder of them all.”
Few figures in American history have been more hotly debated or more grossly misunderstood than Alexander Hamilton. Chernow’s biography gives Hamilton his due and sets the record straight, deftly illustrating that the political and economic greatness of today’s America is the result of Hamilton’s countless sacrifices to champion ideas that were often wildly disputed during his time. “To repudiate his legacy,” Chernow writes, “is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.” Chernow here recounts Hamilton’s turbulent life: an illegitimate, largely self-taught orphan from the Caribbean, he came out of nowhere to take America by storm, rising to become George Washington’s aide-de-camp in the Continental Army, coauthoring The Federalist Papers, founding the Bank of New York, leading the Federalist Party, and becoming the first Treasury Secretary of the United States.
Historians have long told the story of America’s birth as the triumph of Jefferson’s democratic ideals over the aristocratic intentions of Hamilton. Chernow presents an entirely different man, whose legendary ambitions were motivated not merely by self-interest but by passionate patriotism and a stubborn will to build the foundations of American prosperity and power. His is a Hamilton far more human than we’ve encountered before—from his shame about his birth to his fiery aspirations, from his intimate relationships with childhood friends to his titanic feuds with Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Monroe, and Burr, and from his highly public affair with Maria Reynolds to his loving marriage to his loyal wife Eliza. And never before has there been a more vivid account of Hamilton’s famous and mysterious death in a duel with Aaron Burr in July of 1804.
Chernow’s biography is not just a portrait of Hamilton, but the story of America’s birth seen through its most central figure. At a critical time to look back to our roots, Alexander Hamilton will remind readers of the purpose of our institutions and our heritage as Americans.

My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver (Environmental History and the American South)

George Washington Carver (ca. 1864–1943) is at once one of the most familiar and misunderstood figures in American history. In My Work Is That of Conservation, Mark D. Hersey reveals the life and work of this fascinating man who is widely—and reductively—known as the African American scientist who developed a wide variety of uses for the peanut.

Carver had a truly prolific career dedicated to studying the ways in which people ought to interact with the natural world, yet much of his work has been largely forgotten. Hersey rectifies this by tracing the evolution of Carver’s agricultural and environmental thought starting with his childhood in Missouri and Kansas and his education at the Iowa Agricultural College. Carver’s environmental vision came into focus when he moved to the Tuskegee Institute in Macon County, Alabama, where his sensibilities and training collided with the denuded agrosystems, deep poverty, and institutional racism of the Black Belt. It was there that Carver realized his most profound agricultural thinking, as his efforts to improve the lot of the area’s poorest farmers forced him to adjust his conception of scientific agriculture.
Continue reading

Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington

In this thought-provoking look at George Washington as soldier and statesman, Richard Brookhiser traces the astonishing achievements of Washington's career and illuminates how his character and his values shaped the beginnings of American politics.

George Washington: A Biography (Southern Biography)

In George Washington, John R. Alden traces the interwoven histories of Washington and the nation he helped to create, defend, and guide toward the future. Alden recreates the major events of Washington's personal and professional life, including his boyhood in rural Virginia, his early careers as a surveyor and then a soldier in the French and Indian War, and his staid but enduring marriage. The core of the biography is devoted to Washington's leadership roles-his assumption of the post of commander in chief of the Continental Army, his part in the Constitutional Convention, and his presidency. As Alden reveals, Washington's greatness lay in his total devotion to the cause of the American nation and in his wisdom as a leader. "This is the best single-volume biography of Washington ever written. . . . [Alden] is judicious in his judgments, balanced in his presentation, and always interesting in his portrayal."-Library Journal (starred review) "Alden has drawn on his extensive knowledge of the era to produce a straightforward, anecdotal, often lively account of Washington and his times."-New York Times Book Review

The Journal of Major George Washington: An Account of His First Official Mission, Made as Emissary from the Governor of Virginia to the Commandant of the French Forces on the Ohio, Oct. 1753-Jan. 1754

Only eight original copies still exist of this stirring journal kept by young Major George Washington on his mission in 1753-1754 to warn the French against encroaching on British territory. Facsimile edition. 42 pp.; 1 black-and-white drawing; map; 5 x 7¾ ;

Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World

Upon assuming the presidency in 1953, Dwight Eisenhower came to be seen by many as a doddering lightweight. Yet behind the bland smile and apparent simplemindedness was a brilliant, intellectual tactician. As Evan Thomas reveals in his provocative examination of Ike's White House years, Eisenhower was a master of calculated duplicity. As with his bridge and poker games he was eventually forced to stop playing after leaving too many fellow army officers insolvent, Ike could be patient and ruthless in the con, and generous and expedient in his partnerships. Facing the Soviet Union, China, and his own generals, some of whom believed a first strike was the only means of survival, Eisenhower would make his boldest and riskiest bet yet, one of such enormity that there could be but two outcomes: the survival of the world, or its end.

This is the story of how he won.

Inventing George Washington: America’s Founder, in Myth and Memory

An entertaining and erudite history that offers a fresh look at America's first founding father, the creation of his legend, and what it means for our nation and ourselves
George Washington's death on December 14, 1799, dealt a dreadful blow to public morale. For three decades, Americans had depended on his leadership to guide them through every trial. At the cusp of a new century, the fledgling nation, caught in another war (this time with its former ally France), desperately needed to believe that Washington was—and would continue to be—there for them.
Thus began the extraordinary immortalization of this towering historical figure. In Inventing George Washington, historian Edward G. Lengel shows how the late president and war hero continued to serve his nation on two distinct levels. The public Washington evolved into an eternal symbol as Father of His Country, while the private man remained at the periphery of the national vision—always just out of reach—for successive generations yearning to know him as never before.
Both images, public and private, were vital to perceptions Americans had of their nation and themselves. Yet over time, as Lengel shows, the contrasting and simultaneous urges to deify Washington and to understand him as a man have produced tensions that have played out in every generation. As some exalted him, others sought to bring him down to earth, creating a series of competing mythologies that depicted Washington as every sort of human being imaginable. Inventing George Washington explores these representations, shedding new light on this national emblem, our nation itself, and who we are.

All the Best, George Bush: My Life in Letters and Other Writings

Though reticent in public, George Bush openly shared his private thoughts in correspondence throughout his life. This collection of letters, diary entries, and memos is the closest we’ll ever get to an autobiography.
Organized chronologically, the volume begins with eighteen-year-old George’s letters to his parents during World War II, when, at the time he was commissioned, he was the youngest pilot in the Navy. Readers will gain insights into Bush’s career highlights—the oil business, his two terms in Congress, his ambassadorship to the U.N., his service as an envoy to China, his tenure with the Central Intelligence Agency, and of course, the vice presidency, the presidency, and the post-presidency. They will also observe a devoted husband, father, and American. Ranging from a love letter to Barbara and a letter to his mother about missing his daughter, Robin, after her death from leukemia to a letter to his children two weeks before Nixon’s resignation to one written to them just before the beginning of Desert Storm, the writings are remarkable for their candor, humor, and poignancy.
This new edition includes new letters and photographs that cover the last fifteen years, highlighting the Bush family’s enduring influence on history and including letters that cover topics such as George W. Bush’s presidency, 9/11, Bush senior’s work with President Clinton to help the victims of natural disasters, and the meaning of friendship and family.
All the Best, George Bush provides a memorable, surprisingly intimate, and insightful portrayal of the forty-first president of the United States.

Jefferson’s Secrets: Death and Desire at Monticello

When Thomas Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, he left behind a series of mysteries that have captured the imaginations of historical investigators for generations. In Jefferson's Secrets, Andrew Burstein draws on sources previous biographers have glossed over or missed entirely. Beginning with Jefferson's last days, Burstein shows how Jefferson confronted his own mortality. Burstein also tackles the crucial questions history has yet to answer: Did Jefferson love Sally Hemings? What were his attitudes towards women? Did he believe in God? How did he wish to be remembered? The result is a profound and nuanced portrait of the most complex of the Founding Fathers.