James Madison and the American Nation 1751-1836: An Encyclopedia

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9780135084250: James Madison and the American Nation 1751-1836: An Encyclopedia
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Originally conceived by Charles E. Smith, former publisher of many of Macmillan and Simon & Schuster's award-winning reference sets, this one-volume alphabetically arranged encyclopedia focuses on the life and times of James Madison, fourth president of the U.S. (1808^-17). Its 400 articles provide detailed coverage of Madison's life, his interpreters, his writings, his political environment, foreign affairs, and his family and contemporaries.

Capably edited by Rutland, former editor-in-chief of Madison's presidential papers and professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, it includes signed articles from 88 Madison scholars, mostly historians, but also including political scientists, librarians, archivists, economists, and philosophers. Each article incorporates the most recent research on Madison and his contemporaries and includes a brief bibliography. The volume contains numerous black-and-white illustrations drawn from the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress as well as documents from the James Madison Papers at the Library of Congress and numerous maps.

Since Madison's life spans eight decades, from 1751 to 1836, the encyclopedia provides coverage of most of the key events and personages involved in American history from the Continental Congress up through the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812. Madison knew all of the presidents prior to 1837 (he served as Secretary of State to Thomas Jefferson) and corresponded with many of them during his retirement to Montpelier in Virginia.

The most detailed coverage in the encyclopedia is of Madison himself and includes seven articles covering his life and career. Separate articles cover his wife, Dolley, who married Madison in 1794 after an introduction by Aaron Burr, and numerous other family members. Illustrations of Madison include photographs, miniatures, silhouettes, engravings, portraits, and etchings. Articles on Madison's contemporaries tend to be succinct and focus on their relationship to him. Thus the 1-page article on George Washington describes Madison's role as his adviser. That on John Adams focuses on their profound disagreements about the nature of government. An article on the University of Virginia describes Madison's role as rector from 1826 to 1834.

Appendixes include the texts of several documents drafted by Madison, such as the Constitution of 1787. A detailed chronology contrasts key events of Madison's life with other events in America and the world and ends with the death of Dolley Madison in 1849. A synoptic outline of contents provides an overview of the conceptual scheme of the encyclopedia and makes it easy to explore related topics. There is a detailed index. Overall, this is an excellent example of a one-volume encyclopedia that should prove useful to a broad audience, from high-school students to professional historians.

From Library Journal:

The fourth president has gotten a lot of press lately. Last year there was James M. Smith's Republic of Letters: The Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison: 1776-1826 (Norton, 1994), and now the present volume, edited by Rutland (history emeritus, Univ. of Virginia), author of a number of books on Madison. This comprehensive examination of the Founding Father's life and times covers virtually all the people, institutions, and events that touched his life, including the political philosophers Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu, and David Hume. This book also provides a detailed overview of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the Constitution itself, the Bill of Rights, and the Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessment. A worthwhile purchase.
Robert A. Curtis, Taylor Memorial P.L., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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