Friday, March 9, 2012
Author: Harlow Giles Unger
Publisher-Format: Da Capo Press, 2009, eBook, 320 pages
Subject: James Monroe
Setting: USA, France,England
Source: My ebook shelves - Barnes and Noble
Recommended? yes for anyone with an interest in early history of the republic and the War of 1812
Another life time challenge in which I've been participating is the US President's biography on LibraryThing.com. The challenge is to read at least one biography of each president, and the group goal is to accomplish this before 2016. My personal goal is to accomplish this before I die. One of the problems with this challenge is the wide span of available books for each prez. Some (like Washington and Lincoln) have entire libraries of volumes written about them; others have almost nothing. In many cases, and Monroe is in this group, there are the short, quick and dirty, juvenile biographies, and then there are ponderous tomes of the "chunkster" variety. I've been purposefully running a bit behind and letting my fellow challenge participants find the good ones.
This one by Unger is a well-written, well researched, and richly documented story of our 5th president. In addition to his personal accomplishments, many of which I was only slightly aware of, we get a broad picture of a very interesting period in our nation's history as the US bloomed from the 13 original colonies to the vast expanse of land added in the Louisiana purchase. In this bicentennial year of the War of 1812, I actually got a much clearer picture of what the war was all about, who the players were, and what the results were.
It's not an overly engaging read, and there are probably areas that could have born more scrutiny, e.g., Monroe's attitude about slavery which is given just a few scattered mentions here and there, but on the whole, it does give us a much more fleshed out character than most of us had from school, where he seems to have been known as "the 5th President of the United States."
In addition to the well researched text, the book has a wealth of illustrations, adding to our understanding of the period. These pictures are even well portrayed in the e-book format I got from Barnes and Noble for my Nook. If you're reading presidents, this is probably the best one available for Monroe.