May Buckley Sadowski '19 Professor Emeritus of History
With Connecticut College: 1968-2001
B.A. Princeton University; Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University
The Civil War
View Michael Burlingame's personal Website.
Professor Michael Burlingame devotes his scholarly energies to investigating the life and times of Lincoln, about whom he has published twelve books.
In 2008, his most recent work, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (2 volumes, The Johns Hopkins University Press) appeared. Doris Kearns Goodwin noted that “Lincoln scholars have waited anxiously for this book for decades. Its triumphant publication proves it was well worth the wait. Few scholars have written with greater insight about the psychology of Lincoln. No one in recent history has uncovered more fresh sources than Michael Burlingame. This profound and masterful portrait will be read and studied for years to come."
In November 2008, Abraham Lincoln: A Life was reviewed in Publishers Weekly by James L. Swanson, who said: “Between this fall and the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in February 2009, publishers will overwhelm bookstores and readers alike with a flood of more than 60 titles on the ever-popular president. One can hardly keep track of them all: one certainly cannot read them all. Of the dozens of these books competing for attention, a few stand out, foremost among them this title. The trend in Lincoln scholarship has been away from the magisterial narrative comprehensiveness of Carl Sandburg in favor of a narrow, deep dive resulting in the so-called 'slice' book: thus entire volumes about one magnificent speech; a key incident; the deepest crisis; the most pivotal year; and so on. A number of these works have merit, but have failed to capture a wide, popular audience. Abraham Lincoln: A Life is the antithesis of a thin slice from the Lincoln pie. In the sweeping style of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, Burlingame has produced the finest Lincoln biography in more than 60 years and one of the two or three best Lincoln books on any subject in a generation. A distinguished scholar who probably knows more about Abraham Lincoln and his world than anyone else alive, Burlingame has devoted the last quarter century to editing 11 books on the Lincoln primary sources, including the writings of the president’s secretaries John Hay, John Nicolay and William Stoddard. Now Burlingame has produced the most meticulously researched Lincoln biography ever written. He resurrected Lincoln’s lost early journalism, when the young prairie politician -- little more than an immature, unscrupulous hack - wrote more than 200 anonymous op-eds; Burlingame scoured thousands of 19th-century newspapers and discovered hitherto unknown stories; he read hundreds of oral histories, unpublished letters, and journals from Lincoln’s contemporaries; and he re-examined the vast manuscript collections at the Library of Congress and National Archives. Burlingame’s astonishing chapters covering Lincoln’s hard early years and his difficult marriage, and his fresh insights on the profound crisis that made Lincoln great, are worth the price of the book. . . . Burlingame’s Lincoln comes alive as the author unfolds vast amounts of new research while breathing new life into familiar stories. This is a critical, skeptical, loving but never fawning tribute to the man Burlingame praises for 'achiev[ing] a level of psychological maturity unmatched in the history of American public life.' "
“This book supplants Sandburg and supersedes all other biographies. Future Lincoln books cannot be written without it, and from no other book can a general reader learn so much about Abraham Lincoln. It is the essential title for the bicentennial.”
The editors of Publishers Weekly rated Abraham Lincoln: A Life as one of “PW's Best Books of the Year.”
Professor Burlingame’s first book, titled The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln (University of Illinois Press, 1994), was described by reviewers as "a revelation," "a triumph," "the most convincing portrait of Lincoln's personality to date," based on an "incredibly diverse range of sources," and "perhaps the most important piece of Lincoln biography" to appear in the last fifty years.
His second book, An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln (Southern Illinois University Press, 1996) won the Abraham Lincoln Association Award. In 1997, Professor Burlingame published Inside Lincoln's White House: The Complete Civil War Diary of John Hay (Southern Illinois University Press, co-edited with John R. Turner Ettlinger). In 1998, he published Lincoln Observed: Civil War Dispatches of Noah Brooks (Johns Hopkins University Press); Lincoln's Journalist: John Hay's Anonymous Writings for the Press 1860-1864 (Southern Illinois University Press); and an expanded edition of Walter B. Stevens' A Reporter's Lincoln (University of Nebraska Press.) In 2000, he published With Lincoln in the White House: Letters, Memoranda, and Other Writings of John G. Nicolay, 1860-1865 (Southern Illinois University Press); At Lincoln's Side: John Hay's Civil War Correspondence and Selected Writings (Southern Illinois University Press); and an expanded version of Inside the White House in War Times: Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln's Secretary by William O. Stoddard (University of Nebraska Press). In 2002, he published Dispatches from Lincoln's White House: The Anonymous Civil War Journalism of Presidential Secretary William O. Stoddard (University of Nebraska Press); an expanded edition of The Real Lincoln: A Portrait by Jesse W. Weik (University of Nebraska Press); and "Lincoln's Humor" and Other Essays by Benjamin P. Thomas (University of Illinois Press). In 2007, he published Abraham Lincoln: The Observations of John G. Nicolay and John Hay (Southern Illinois University Press).
Currently Professor Burlingame is working on a one-volume abridgement of Abraham Lincoln: A Life; a brief book on Lincoln and the Civil War; and several compilations of Lincoln primary source materials.
Professor Burlingame is co-chair of the Connecticut Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Abraham Lincoln Association (Springfield, IL) and the Abraham Lincoln Institute (Washington, DC). He is also a member of the board of advisors for the Abraham Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College (Galesburg, IL.)