A two-volume biography that was 30 years in the making, by one of the foremost living authorities on Abraham Lincoln, has won the 2010 Lincoln Prize.
Michael Burlingame will receive the $50,000 Lincoln Prize for his book, “Abraham Lincoln: A Life” (Johns Hopkins University Press), as well as a bronze replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens life-size bust, “Lincoln the Man.” Burlingame is the Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair of Lincoln Studies at the University of Illinois Springfield. The prize, sponsored by Gettysburg College and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, will be awarded April 27 at the Union League in New York.
The prize was co-founded in 1990 by businessmen and philanthropists Richard Gilder and Lewis Lehrman, co-chairmen of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York and co-creators of the Gilder Lehrman Collection - one of the largest private archives of documents and artifacts in the nation. The Institute is devoted to history education, supporting magnet schools, teacher training, digital archives, curriculum development, exhibitions and publications, as well as the national History Teacher of the Year program.
The book is a comprehensive look at Lincoln’s life - from growing up impoverished in rural Kentucky and Indiana, to building a career as an ambitious politician that led him to become the 16th president of the United States. Burlingame writes about the trials and tribulations Lincoln experienced as commander-in-chief and focuses on his leadership during the Civil War. From private sorrows to public disasters, Burlingame tells the whole story of one of America’s greatest presidents.
“Burlingame’s massive biography of Abraham Lincoln is a landmark of American historical scholarship. Nothing surpasses Burlingame’s comprehensive and detailed research into the entire life of Lincoln,” Lehrman said. “His prose and arguments are always clear and straightforward, even if some judgments will be vigorously debated. Because the author of this extraordinary biography has unearthed new evidence and reviewed all previous scholarship, these debates will have to contend with the vast document-based evidence, which this Lincoln Prize winner brings to bear on the life of Lincoln. Every member of the literate general public, interested in Abraham Lincoln, is surely indebted to Burlingame for his tireless research into archives and newspapers never before examined.”
“Michael Burlingame’s “Abraham Lincoln: A Life” is meticulously researched and provides a multi-faceted portrait of a man who grew into greatness,” said Janet Morgan Riggs, president of Gettysburg College. “Though its length may be intimidating to some, Burlingame’s narrative is accessible and engaging. No one who reads this powerful work will ever look at Lincoln quite the same way again.”
The three-member 2010 Lincoln Prize jury - Douglas Wilson, the George A. Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus and co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College; Joseph R. Fornieri, Associate Professor of Political Science at Rochester Institute of Technology; and James Oakes, Distinguished Professor and Graduate School Humanities Professor at CUNY Graduate Center - considered 118 titles for the award before recommending the finalists to the Lincoln Prize board which makes the final decision. In addition to Lehrman, Gilder and Riggs, the Board includes James G. Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute; Gabor Boritt, Fluhrer Professor of Civil War Studies emeritus at Gettysburg College; and Edwin T. Johnson, Gettysburg College Trustee emeritus.
Finalists for the prize included Robert McGlone’s “John Brown's War Against Slavery” (Cambridge University Press) and Mark Wahlgren Summers’ “A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction” (University of North Carolina Press).
Past Lincoln Prize winners include Ken Burns in 1991 for his documentary, “The Civil War,” Allen Guelzo for his books, “Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President” in 2000 and “Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America” in 2005 and Doris Kearns Goodwin in 2006 for her book, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.” Last year's co-winners were James McPherson for his book, “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief” and Craig Symonds for his book, “Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy, and the Civil War.”
Born in Washington, D.C., Burlingame attended Phillips Academy, Andover. As a freshman at Princeton University, he enrolled in the Civil War course taught by the eminent Lincolnian David Herbert Donald, who took him under his wing as a research assistant. When Donald moved to Johns Hopkins University, Burlingame followed him upon his graduation from Princeton. Burlingame received his Ph.D. in 1968 from Johns Hopkins University and joined the history department at Connecticut College in New London, where he taught until retiring in 2001 as the Sadowski Professor of History Emeritus. He joined the faculty at the University of Illinois Springfield in 2009.
Burlingame is the author of “The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln” (University of Illinois Press, 1994) and has edited volumes of Lincoln primary source materials. Burlingame has received the Abraham Lincoln Association Book Prize (1996), Lincoln Diploma of Honor from Lincoln Memorial University (1998) and an Honorable Mention for the Lincoln Prize (2001). He was inducted into the Lincoln Academy of Illinois in 2009.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition that includes Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate and other distinguished scholars among its alumni. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, founded in 1994, is a not-for-profit organization that oversees the Gilder Lehrman Collection and conducts history education programs in all fifty states, serving more than 3,000 teachers, their students and their communities, across the country every year.