Encyclopedia of the U.S. Presidency: A Historical Reference

Facts On File. 6 vols. 2013. 3056p. ed. by . bibliog. index. ISBN 9780816067442. $550. Online: Infobase eBooks REF
Young (history, Univ. of Houston) adds to a crowded field with this nuanced survey of the American executive, which the editor claims as "the most powerful elected office the world has ever known." The power, pageantry, and prestige of the position and the lives of those select 44 who have held it are here detailed with remarkable depth and insightful prose in an effort to edify readers and transcend the type of "sound bite analysis too often found in the modern media." The opening volume includes 19 thematic essays dealing with various topics surrounding the history of the presidency including "Origins of the Presidency," "Presidency and the Politics of Race," and "The Presidency and Popular Culture." The ensuing volumes follow a chronological arrangement of individually signed entries covering from Washington to Obama, each beginning with an overview biography, biographical time line, articles on presidential campaign and election(s), and a variety of sidebars on First Ladies, VPs, and other miscellany. A "Major Events and Issues" section within each entry details important events, legislation, accomplishments, and Supreme Court decisions. The entry for Jefferson, for example, includes essays on Marbury v. Madison (1803), the Non-Importation Act (1806), and the Second Great Awakening. A number of black-and-white photos and illustrations as well as charts and electoral statistics are scattered throughout the volumes. Each entry is concluded by an extensive bibliography followed by a well-chosen selection of pertinent primary-source documents that provide insight into events during individual administrations.
VERDICT Whether researching the mind of Madison or the dynamism of Calvin Coolidge, this is an excellent purchase for anyone interested in presidential scholarship or any institution supporting American history curriculums.
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