Presidents of War: Book summary and reviews of Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss

Presidents of War

by Michael Beschloss

Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss X
Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss
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Book Summary

From a preeminent presidential historian comes a groundbreaking and often surprising saga of America's wartime chief executives.

Ten years in the research and writing, Presidents of War is a fresh, magisterial, intimate look at a procession of American leaders as they took the nation into conflict and mobilized their country for victory. It brings us into the room as they make the most difficult decisions that face any President, at times sending hundreds of thousands of American men and women to their deaths. 

From James Madison and the War of 1812 to recent times, we see them struggling with Congress, the courts, the press, their own advisors and antiwar protesters; seeking comfort from their spouses, families and friends; and dropping to their knees in prayer. We come to understand how these Presidents were able to withstand the pressures of war - both physically and emotionally - or were broken by them.

Beschloss's interviews with surviving participants in the drama and his findings in original letters, diaries, once-classified national security documents, and other sources help him to tell this story in a way it has not been told before. Presidents of War combines the sense of being there with the overarching context of two centuries of American history. This important book shows how far we have traveled from the time of our Founders, who tried to constrain presidential power, to our modern day, when a single leader has the potential to launch nuclear weapons that can destroy much of the human race.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The author's highly readable style and ability to pinpoint the most relevant facts make this a perfect book for any student of American history and its presidents." - Kirkus

"With ample detail and enticing storytelling, this readable work will be enjoyed by students and American history buffs." - Publishers Weekly

"In this brilliant work, Michael Beschloss burnishes his already bright reputation. He tells a gripping tale of courage and mendacity as well as recurring defiance of the constitutional requirement to seek congressional approval for making war. A monumental and profoundly important achievement." - Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Grant

"Beschloss has brought us an unforgettable narrative. Presidents of War is a landmark book about power, leadership and human nature itself." - Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Soul of America

"Once again, Beschloss captures our Presidents in terms both historic and human, showing that whoever holds the office will fearlessly - or fearfully - impact our world." - Tom Hanks, author of Uncommon Type

"Michael Beschloss guides us on a fascinating and sobering journey from the War of 1812 to the present, illuminating a steady expansion in presidential war powers and consequent abandonment of the constitutional restraints the Founders crafted to prevent despotism. It is a powerful and troubling story, essential reading for our time." - Drew Gilpin Faust, author of This Republic of Suffering, President Emerita and Lincoln Professor of History, Harvard University

"Michael Beschloss, our leading historian of the American presidency, presents a deeply researched and elegantly written chronicle of how presidents from the early nineteenth century through modern time have handled this most daunting and important responsibility. Revealing both the high points and the low, and using newly available material, Beschloss tells us much we did not know about important events and gives a different perspective on things we thought we knew." - Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hemingses of Monticello and Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School

"Throughout this compelling story runs a question of ever-more clamorous urgency: have the Constitutional safeguards against war as the dread spawn of presidential ambition, whim, or ignorance been eroded to the point of irrelevance in our own day?" - David M. Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Freedom from Fear and Professor of History Emeritus, Stanford University

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Author Information

Michael Beschloss Author Biography

Michael Beschloss has been called "the nation's leading Presidential historian" by Newsweek. He has written eight books on American Presidents and is NBC News Presidential Historian, as well as contributor to PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and two sons.

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