How Abraham Lincoln evolved into a foreign-policy president
Much has been written about how Lincoln saved the Union, but LINCOLN IN THE WORLD highlights the lesser-known—yet equally vital—role he played on the world stage during those tumultuous years of war and division.
Select Praise for Lincoln in the World:
“With original research, Peraino achieves a remarkable triple play for readers of Lincoln, the Civil War, and diplomatic history.” —Booklist
“Kevin Peraino is a major new historical talent, combining the sensibility of a gifted writer and storyteller with a keen analytic intelligence. You may think you know all you need to know about Abraham Lincoln, but in this lucid and compelling new book, you will discover that you’ve only heard half the story. Here is the Lincoln who looked abroad, struggling with, and ultimately shaping, America’s role in the world.”
—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
“Lincoln came into the presidency professing that, as a country lawyer, he knew nothing about foreign affairs. He had never been abroad. Yet as Kevin Peraino shows in this penetrating account, Lincoln steered American policy through the shoals of potential foreign intervention in the Civil War and brought the U.S. triumphantly through this crisis as the exemplar of democratic freedoms in a changing world.”
—James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom
“With the virtues of both a scholar (his research is prodigious) and a journalist (he writes with verve and flair), Kevin Peraino shines a bright light on a neglected aspect of Lincoln’s remarkable leadership. Though the sixteenth president modestly predicted at the start of his administration that he might well make foreign policy blunders, Peraino shows that the Railsplitter proved to be a shrewd realist as he and his able secretary of state, William Henry Seward, dealt with foreign affairs. Peraino’s background as an overseas reporter enables him to view his subject from a perspective that most professional historians lack. His book is a most welcome addition to Lincoln literature.” —Michael Burlingame, author of Abraham Lincoln: A Life
“Peraino’s narrative beautifully illustrates the political battles that shaped Lincoln’s approach to diplomacy….”
—Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire
“Kevin Peraino’s elegantly written Lincoln in the World is a fascinating bookend to the Lincoln story. The author shares the heartening and uplifting details of Lincoln’s influence in the world. In so doing, he inspires us in our America that remains a ‘house divided.’” —Frank J. Williams, founding chair of the Lincoln Forum
As a veteran foreign correspondent, author Kevin Peraino (who spent a decade at Newsweek, was a finalist for the Livingston Award for his foreign-affairs reporting, and was part of the team that won a National Magazine Award for its coverage of the 2004 presidential campaign) has long been fascinated by foreign affairs, witnessing it at the street level as he traveled throughout the world—from Syria to Libya to Sudan. As he began studying the traditions of American foreign policy, he came to see strong similarities between our modern global arena and the Age of Lincoln. While many Americans share the view that “all we really need to know about Lincoln we learned in kindergarten,” Peraino argues that there is still much to be learned from the Great Emancipator when he is viewed against the backdrop of his own world.
LINCOLN IN THE WORLD: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power (Crown; on sale October 29, 2013) by Kevin Peraino is the story of one of the most breathtaking feats in the annals of American foreign policy—performed by one of the most unlikely figures. Abraham Lincoln is not often remembered as a great foreign-policy president. He had never traveled overseas, spoke no foreign languages, and admitted that he knew little about diplomacy. Yet, during the Civil War, Lincoln and his team skillfully managed to stare down the Continent’s great powers—deftly avoiding European intervention on the side of the Confederacy, which could well have led to a Southern victory. In the process, the United States emerged as a world power in its own right.
Engaging, insightful, and highly original, LINCOLN IN THE WORLD is a tale set at the intersection of personal character and national power. The narrative focuses tightly on five distinct, intensely human conflicts that helped define the character of Lincolnian foreign policy: his debate, as a young congressman, with his law partner William Herndon over the conduct of the Mexican War; his conflict with Secretary of State William Seward over the control of his administration’s foreign policy; his standoff with Britain’s Lord Palmerston during the Trent crisis of 1861; his race with Karl Marx to master the new art of molding public opinion; and his deadlock with Napoleon III over the French occupation of Mexico. Bursting with colorful characters—like Lincoln’s bowie-knife-wielding minister to Russia, Cassius Marcellus Clay; the cunning French empress, Eugénie; and the hapless Mexican monarch Maximilian—LINCOLN IN THE WORLD draws a finely wrought portrait of a president and his team at the dawn of American power.
In the Age of Lincoln, we see shadows of our own world. The international arena in the 1860s could be a merciless moral vacuum. Lincoln’s times demanded the cold, realistic pursuit of national interest, and, in important ways, resembled our own increasingly multipolar world. And yet, like ours, Lincoln’s era was also an information age, a period of rapid globalization. Steamships, telegraph wires, and proliferating new media were transforming the world. Global influence required the use of “soft power” as well as hard.
Anchored by meticulous research into overlooked archives, LINCOLN IN THE WORLD reveals the sixteenth president to be one of America’s indispensable diplomats—and a key architect of America’s emergence as a global superpower. Much has been written about how Lincoln saved the Union, but LINCOLN IN THE WORLD highlights the lesser-known—yet equally vital—role he played on the world stage during those tumultuous years of war and division.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kevin Peraino is a veteran foreign correspondent who has reported from throughout the world. He spent a decade at Newsweek, most recently as a senior writer and bureau chief in the Middle East. He was a finalist for the Livingston Award for his foreign-affairs reporting and was part of the team that won a National Magazine Award for its coverage of the 2004 presidential campaign. A graduate of Northwestern University and a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations, Peraino lives in Connecticut with his wife and children. Follow him on Twitter @KevinPeraino.