The Strange Career of Lincoln the Loser

Lecture Description

Although Abraham Lincoln called himself “a flat failure” in 1856, scholars of his life and career have generally rejected his self assessment as both inaccurate and unreasonable. Nevertheless, during the twentieth century his litany of pre-presidential setbacks became a classic bit of popular culture, immortalized in motivational posters, newspaper filler items, and continuously reforwarded emails. Unraveling this conflict between memory and history (or historiography), this lecture explores both the changing meanings of failure in modern America and the contest between scholarly and vernacular interpretations of the past.



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