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After Andropov

John Barber, 19 April 1984

Andropov 
by Zhores Medvedev.
Blackwell, 227 pp., £7.50, June 1983, 0 631 13401 8
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Andropov in Power: From Komsomol to Kremlin 
by Jonathan Steele and Eric Abraham.
Martin Robertson, 216 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 85520 641 1
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Life in Russia 
by Michael Binyon.
Hamish Hamilton, 286 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 241 10982 5
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The Soviet Union after Brezhnev 
edited by Martin McCauley.
Heinemann, 160 pp., £14.50, November 1983, 0 8419 0918 0
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Yuri Andropov: A Secret Passage into the Kremlin 
by Vladimir Solovyov and Elena Klepikova, translated by Guy Daniels.
Robert Hale, 302 pp., £11.50, February 1984, 0 7090 1630 1
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... Committee, which he did, though giving him an equally responsible role. Jonathan Steele and Eric Abraham characterised Chernenko as a ‘classic apparatchik’ who was ‘nothing but a Brezhnev associate’. But they also noted signs of his ‘continuing power’, and in particular the possibility that his being given the important task of making ...

Divinely Ordained

Eric Foner: Lincoln, 23 October 2003

Lincoln 
by Richard Carwardine.
Longman, 352 pp., £16.99, May 2003, 0 582 03279 2
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Lincoln's Constitution 
by Daniel Farber.
Chicago, 240 pp., £20.50, May 2003, 0 226 23793 1
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... between policies of the Bush Administration since 11 September and the way the Government under Abraham Lincoln responded to the crisis of the Civil War in the 1860s. Both Presidents assumed powers that went well beyond what the Constitution seems to allow. In both cases, thousands of people suspected of assisting the enemy were arrested and held without ...

This Guilty Land

Eric Foner: Every Possible Lincoln, 17 December 2020

Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times 
by David S. Reynolds.
Penguin, 1066 pp., £33.69, September, 978 1 59420 604 7
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The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and the Struggle for American Freedom 
by H.W. Brands.
Doubleday, 445 pp., £24, October, 978 0 385 54400 9
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... Abraham Lincoln​ , memorialised as a child of the frontier, self-made man and liberator of the slaves, has been the subject of more than 16,000 books, according to David S. Reynolds’s new biography, Abe. That’s around two a week, on average, since the end of the American Civil War. Almost every possible Lincoln can be found in the historical literature, including the moralist who hated slavery, the pragmatic politician driven solely by ambition, the tyrant who ran roughshod over the Constitution, and the indecisive leader buffeted by events he could not control ...

Royal Americans

D.A.N. Jones, 4 October 1984

Lincoln 
by Gore Vidal.
Heinemann, 657 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 434 83077 1
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Stars and Bars 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £8.50, September 1984, 0 241 11343 1
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... from his pictures on the walls and hoardings, pictures that make him a target for killers. This is Abraham Lincoln, the newly-elected President, come to Washington to take over from Buchanan and become a warlord. The little sharp-eyed man at Lincoln’s flank, with a derringer bulging in his pocket, is a detective called Pinkerton. The hulking young bodyguard ...

Eden without the Serpent

Eric Foner, 11 December 1997

A History of the American People 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 925 pp., £25, October 1997, 0 297 81569 5
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... belief but actual ‘religious events’. In fact, many of the founding fathers, as well as Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator himself, were indifferent churchgoers. Their religion was deism rather than devout Christianity. Johnson has a hard time explaining why a nation ‘founded primarily for religious purposes’ has a Constitution that is a ...

An Agreement with Hell

Eric Foner, 20 February 1997

Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution 
by Jack Rakove.
Knopf, 439 pp., $35, April 1996, 0 394 57858 9
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... slavery divided political leaders before the Civil War and has bedevilled historians ever since. Abraham Lincoln, who revered the Constitution, always insisted the founders intended to set slavery ‘in the course of ultimate extinction’. Nothing in the document, Lincoln argued, looked on slavery as a permanent part of American life. Southern leaders like ...

Monobeing

Brian Rotman: Why did the eternal one arrive so late?, 17 February 2005

God: An Itinerary 
by Régis Debray.
Verso, 307 pp., £25, March 2004, 1 85984 589 4
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... Jack Goody’s attributing to cuneiform writing the deployment of lists and linear thinking; Eric Havelock’s locating the source of Greek abstract thought and Plato’s ideal forms in the advent of writing; Richard Seaford’s rooting of these features in the monetisation of Greek society; and of course Marshall McLuhan’s celebration of the ...

Worst President in History

Eric Foner: Impeaching Andrew Johnson, 24 September 2020

The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation 
by Brenda Wineapple.
Ballantine, 592 pp., £12.99, May, 978 0 8129 8791 1
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... problem was his failure to rise to the challenge of Reconstruction after the Civil War.When Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, Johnson, the vice president, succeeded him. Like his predecessor, Johnson started out at the bottom of the social ladder. As a young man he was an indentured servant. But while in Lincoln early deprivation sparked ...

A Topic Best Avoided

Nicholas Guyatt: Abraham Lincoln, 1 December 2011

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery 
by Eric Foner.
Norton, 426 pp., £21, February 2011, 978 0 393 06618 0
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... On the evening of 11 April 1865, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd in Washington about black suffrage. The Civil War had been over for a week. Lincoln had already walked the streets of Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, taking in the devastation at first hand. ‘The only people who showed themselves were negroes,’ the radical senator Charles Sumner noted ...

Can you close your eyes without falling over?

Hugh Pennington: Symptoms of Syphilis, 11 September 2003

Pox: Genius, Madness and the Mysteries of Syphilis 
by Deborah Hayden.
Basic Books, 379 pp., £20.99, January 2003, 0 465 02881 0
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... Nietzsche, Joyce, Karen Blixen, van Gogh. Hayden reminds us, too, that politicians – Hitler, Abraham Lincoln and his wife – can, like anyone else, catch sexually transmitted diseases. Her approach is profitable and her choice of sufferers sensible: many of them left records of their views – and fears – about syphilis and its effects on their ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 8 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... story goes. New versions of this cross-generational vaulting circulate now and then: a man who saw Abraham Lincoln being shot in 1865 was on a TV show in 1956; a retired friend in Canada recalls her now deceased Hungarian friend Dorothy telling her that her mother had been walking in the park at the age of four with her mother when the Emperor Franz Joseph ...

The Corrupt Bargain

Eric Foner: Democracy? No thanks, 21 May 2020

Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? 
by Alexander Keyssar.
Harvard, 544 pp., £28.95, May, 978 0 674 66015 1
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Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College 
by Jesse Wegman.
St Martin’s Press, 304 pp., $24.50, March, 978 1 250 22197 1
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... in the popular vote. This is what happened in the momentous four-candidate election of 1860. Abraham Lincoln received virtually no popular votes in the slave states and only 40 per cent nationally. But by carrying the entire North, he captured an electoral vote majority. Indeed, if the popular votes of the other candidates had been combined and given to ...

Orwell and Biography

Bernard Crick, 7 October 1982

... life when the reception of 1984 both impressed and worried him. Frankly I do not think that the ‘Eric Blair/George Orwell’ disjunction need trouble one greatly. Even Stansky and Abrams had dropped it by their second volume: I think their idea of a character change when he adopted the pseudonym was more of a formal excuse for not writing about ‘George ...

Clutching at Insanity

Frank Kermode: Winnicott and psychoanalysis, 4 March 2004

Winnicott: Life and Work 
by Robert Rodman.
Perseus, 461 pp., $30, May 2003, 0 7382 0397 1
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... not only his daughter but himself. Donald Winnicott was the analyst of Melanie Klein’s son Eric, so couldn’t go to her himself, but his analyst was Joan Riviere, very close to Klein, and his wife was a patient of hers. Readers of this journal may recall Wynne Godley’s complaint that his analyst, Masud Khan, was himself a patient and confidant of ...

Provenly Unprovable

Solomon Feferman: Can mathematics describe the world?, 9 February 2006

Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel 
by Rebecca Goldstein.
Norton, 224 pp., $13.95, February 2006, 0 393 32760 4
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... as Goldstein has it): Einstein was brought from Germany to the institute in 1933 by its founder, Abraham Flexner, as one of the first two permanent members (the other was the American mathematician Oswald Veblen, brother of Thorstein); Gödel fled Austria at the last minute in 1940 to avoid conscription and came to the institute as an ...

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