With the prescience that all truly great biographers possess, Berg discovered in Woodrow Wilson a figure who would understand Washington s current state of affairs. Read more...
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With the prescience that all truly great biographers possess, Berg discovered in Woodrow Wilson a figure who would understand Washington s current state of affairs. Vanity Fair
A brilliant biography that still resonates in Washington today. Doris Kearns Goodwin
From Pulitzer Prize winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author A. Scott Berg comes the definitive and revelatory biography of one of the great American figures of modern times.
One hundred years after his inauguration, Woodrow Wilson still stands as one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century, and one of the most enigmatic. And now, after more than a decade of research and writing, Pulitzer Prize-winning author A. Scott Berg has completed Wilson--the most personal and penetrating biography ever written about the 28th President.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of documents in the Wilson Archives, Berg was the first biographer to gain access to two recently-discovered caches of papers belonging to those close to Wilson. From this material, Berg was able to add countless details--even several unknown events--that fill in missing pieces of Wilson s character and cast new light on his entire life.
From the scholar-President who ushered the country through its first great world war to the man of intense passion and turbulence, from the idealist determined to make the world safe for democracy to the stroke-crippled leader whose incapacity and the subterfuges around it were among the century s greatest secrets, the result is an intimate portrait written with a particularly contemporary point of view a book at once magisterial and deeply emotional about the whole of Wilson s life, accomplishments, and failings. This is not just Wilson the icon but Wilson the man."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-07-08
- Reviewer: Staff
This won’t replace John Milton Cooper Jr.’s superb 2009 biography of the United States’ 28th president (Woodrow Wilson), and one could argue that Berg’s isn’t needed so soon after Cooper’s; other than two caches of papers belonging to Wilson’s daughter Jesse and his physician, nothing significantly new about him has been learned in the past four years. Notwithstanding, Berg (he won a Pulitzer for Lindbergh) has written a lively, solid book. It’s more digestible than Cooper’s scholarly tome, and Berg does a better job of capturing Wilson’s personality. Before he occupied the Oval Office, Wilson served as president of Princeton; Berg—like Cooper—is an alumnus of the university, and is generally sympathetic to the man (he puts much emphasis on Wilson’s love for his two wives and characterizes him as a passionate lover as well as a determined leader), while taking a more critical stand against his racial views and policies, his handling of the League of Nations, and of the secrecy that surrounded his late-presidency illness. Most importantly, Berg presents Wilson’s failure to win the world over to his post-WWI vision as a personal and national tragedy. He’s right, but Berg’s likening of Wilson’s life to biblical stages is overkill (chapter titles include “Ascension,” “Gethsemane,” etc.). Fortunately, the theme of tragedy—while nothing new—binds the book and lifts it above more conventional biographies. Photos. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Sept.)
The definitive biography of our 28th President
Born in Virginia in 1856 to a Presbyterian minister of modest means, Thomas Woodrow Wilson first flowered as an academic. He joined the faculty of Princeton University in 1890, became one of the school’s most beloved professors and was elevated to its presidency 12 years later. Throughout this period of intensive teaching and public lecturing, he published a torrent of magazine articles and books on government and history. It did not take long for New Jersey’s power brokers to recognize in Wilson the radiant raw material of a first-rate politician.
Wilson’s aspirations ranged elsewhere, too. He was a romantic. First he fell in love with a cousin who gently rejected him, despite a barrage of pleas, flowers and love letters. Then came his equally passionate courtship of and marriage to Ellen Axson, to whom he remained devoted until her death in 1914. Devastated by her loss, he nonetheless found love again with the widow Edith Bolling Galt, who became his wife, closest confidant and heart’s joy until his death in 1924.
Elected governor of New Jersey in 1910, Wilson had only two years to work his wonders on the Garden State before being snatched away to run for president. Despite his newness to politics, he triumphed over the incumbent William Howard Taft, former president Theodore Roosevelt and the high-profile Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs. Generally progressive in his outlook and a vocal supporter of women’s suffrage, Wilson nonetheless turned his back on black Americans, permitting the Postal Service and Treasury Department to segregate the races.
A. Scott Berg understandably devotes most of his new biography to Wilson’s evolution from the man who “kept us out of war” in his first term of office to his full-fledged engagement in WWI during his second term. Always viewing himself as a peacemaker—and with good reason—he was nonetheless ruthlessly efficient when it came to raising troops, building war industries, turning the country in favor of war and punishing war opponents, including Debs, whose prison term he steadfastly refused to commute after the war. After spending six months in Europe trying to establish the League of Nations and minimize the rancor and disruption caused by the war, Wilson was outraged to discover he couldn’t sell the League or terms of peace to his own Senate.
Wilson is an epic, meticulously documented and immensely readable account of a truly thoughtful and forward-looking president who deserves more from history than he has yet received. This is a marvelous corrective.