Cover: Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race, from Harvard University PressCover: Big Enough to Be Inconsistent in HARDCOVER

Big Enough to Be Inconsistent

Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race

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$41.00 • £35.95 • €37.95

ISBN 9780674027749

Publication Date: 02/28/2008


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With graceful and efficient expertise, Fredrickson deconstructs our rigid castings of Lincoln as either savior or racist. This exceptional book has that rare ability to make the less informed feel wise and the wise feel all the more discerning and learned.—Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal (starred review)

For more than thirty years George Frederickson was a leading historian of race relations and racial ideologies in the United States and other multiracial societies… Frederickson’s thorough research, original insights, common-sense interpretations, and lucid prose made him a historian’s historian as well as a writer who reached a broad audience with several of his books… Big Enough to Be Inconsistent focuses more on Lincoln’s own racial attitudes than on his policies toward slavery.—James M. McPherson, The New York Review of Books

Offers a lucid analysis of scholarship on that topic over recent decades. Lincoln has been depicted as everything from a pragmatic racist to a prudential abolitionist.—Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Fredrickson wades into a controversial arena: was Lincoln a heroic emancipator or a racist who didn’t care about slaves at all? …This brief book will be widely discussed by historians and will provide nonacademic readers a lucid introduction to some of the most heated debates about the 16th president.Publishers Weekly

The cottage industry of books on Abraham Lincoln represents both a process of national hagiography and the impulse to deconstruct the myth of Honest Abe, the Great Emancipator. George Fredrickson, pioneer of the comparative method of historical study, aims in this slim book for a middle ground between those who hold to a vision of Lincoln as a saintly anti-slavery advocate (albeit one who bided his time, waiting for the perfect political moment to champion emancipation) and those who argue that Lincoln was, as many of his statements seem to indicate, a racist… This book, through its engagement with the complicated tensions around race at the time of the Civil War, also offers a valuable insight into the continuing history of racism and the racial divide in American today. The legacy of slavery and segregation still characterizes our society, occasionally dominating headlines but far more frequently remaining a ubiquitous subtext in private conversations and national discourse. The noble goal of Fredrickson’s career was bringing such tension, and its ugly, tangled history, to the surface, so that we, his readers, can continue to repair our divided house.—Spencer Drew, Rain Taxi

Like all of Fredrickson’s work, Big Enough to Be Inconsistent is marked by meticulous scholarship and a fair-minded evaluation of differing interpretations and pieces of evidence. It is balanced and insightful throughout.—Eric Foner

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