RaveThe New York Review of Books\"Wendell Willkie was a fireball of energy, tenacity, business acumen, ideas, and ideals. His exuberance is matched by that of David Levering Lewis, the biographer of W.E.B. Du Bois, in his deeply researched and highly absorbing book The Improbable Wendell Willkie. Improbable indeed ... as Lewis persuasively argues, Willkie’s decisive legacy to postwar politics was the gradual, grudging acceptance by the party that disowned him of the bipartisanship and internationalism he fervently advocated.\
Colin G. Calloway
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksGeorge Washington is undoubtedly the dominant figure in the formative events of American nation-building, and Calloway emphasizes that in order to fully understand him, historians must not ignore the vital part that Native Americans played in his life as well as in the history of the young nation. In fact, Native Americans take center stage in his sweeping and deeply researched study. He dismisses the old Eurocentric stereotypes of Indians as savages, whether bloodthirsty or noble, and instead dives into the tremendous complexity of eighteenth-century America and its diverse cultures. He searches for Native Americans’ own voices as they desperately struggled to defend and preserve their autonomy, land, communities, and traditions against white America’s inexorable drive to spread onto their soil. Combining political, social, military, and diplomatic history, an undertaking that poses significant narrative challenges, he develops a maze of unremitting violent confrontations, multitribal confederacies and gatherings, cooperative trade agreements, currents of coexistence, deceitful land deals, diplomatic negotiations, amicably signed treaties, overt bribes, and grim betrayals. Calloway offers no less complex a portrait of Washington ... Ultimately, Calloway seems unsure if the story he seeks to tell is a true tragedy or a morality play designed to affirm our own twenty-first-century sense of superiority ... Calloway is deeply ambivalent about Washington’s part in the Indian world, including his unsuccessful efforts to protect Indian territory and his wish to steer Native Americans toward assimilation into white society.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewAs the Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman demonstrates in his illuminating and absorbing political biography, The Three Lives of James Madison, Madison would remain in ongoing dialogue and conflict with himself for the rest of his life. Feldman explores Madison’s reactive and improvisational thinking as it played out in the three uniquely consequential roles, or 'lives,' he had — as constitutional architect and co-author with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay of the Federalist Papers, political partisan and wartime president ... Feldman does not discuss the elder statesman’s role in the fraught nullification crisis of the late 1820s and early 1830s, but it’s only a further example of Madison’s political flexibility ... Feldman’s deeply thoughtful study shows that the three identities of James Madison constituted one exceptional life, which effectively mirrored the evolving identity of the American republic in its most formative phase. In Feldman’s capable hands, Madison becomes the original embodiment of our 'living Constitution.'