Over the past four years, we Australians have had considerable experience of the conflicted, and sometimes agonising, politics of war. In this study, Michael A. McDonnell, a historian at the University of Sydney, examines the unanticipated social and political contestations aroused by the demands of another war. In the late eighteenth century, Virginia endured a six-year struggle against the imperial rule of Britain. A settled class of wealthy gentlemen planters who had previously assumed the right to leadership came to find that role questioned in a wholly new politics of war. Middle- and lower-class Virginians began to ask them: how will you distribute the burden of the war equitably across society? Should the wealthy planters be exempt because of their property holdings? Who is to fight and die in this war? Who is to control recruitment?
Weidenfeld & Nicolson were both wise and fortunate in their choice of Thomas Keneally to write a study of Abraham Lincoln for their Lives series. He in turn gifted them, and us, with a story that listens closely to Lincoln’s words and sees some shape in the internal and external demons that so often troubled his life. Keneally’s narrative moves quietly alongside the Illinois rail-splitter as Lincoln transforms himself from local small-time politician to President of the USA.