Number 60 (2016)

Lincoln in Europe

Guest Editors: John Dean and Olivier Frayssé


European universities host only a handful of Lincoln scholars. Steven Spielberg’s movie Lincoln had only a modest success in European theaters. The Lincoln theme presents challenges to teachers in EFL classrooms. Why is there such a limited place in Europe for one of the greatest American icons? In this special issue of the American Studies Journal we explore this paradox through the contributions of seasoned Lincoln scholars, historians of Europe and transatlantic relations, and specialists of cultural history and popular culture. The international and interdisciplinary perspectives of our contributors offer new insights into Lincoln and the Lincoln theme by showing how the image of the 16th president has been determined by U.S.-European relations at various moments in history.

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Assessing the Lincoln “Impact Factor” in European History

The Global Lincoln: European Dimensions

Abraham Lincoln yearned to leave a permanent legacy. It is doubtful, however, that Lincoln, even when Confederates surrendered, appreciated just how far he had stirred hearts and minds at home and abroad. Yet his death, just days after Lee laid down his arms at Appomattox, prompted a quite extraordinary explosion of mourning around the world.

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The Gettysburg Address as Foreign Policy

During the Cold War agents of the United States government frequently invoked the Gettysburg Address in an attempt to spread pro-American sentiment across the globe. Throughout this period the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement were the U.S.’s two main concerns. While the one was seemingly an international issue and the other a domestic one, in reality they were closely linked. At a time when America was competing with the Soviet Union for global influence, particularly in the newly independent nations in Africa, the racial discord in the country was a major tool used against the United States.

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Lincoln in Popular European Visual Culture

Statues and Status: Lincoln in Europe

Lincoln’s ascension to the status of icon was not smooth and steady. Journalist Horace Greeley predicted in April of 1865 that the sixteenth President’s reputation would grow proportionate to the distance from his own era, and it grew steadily from his death in 1865, but soared dramatically following his Centennial in 1909. The exponential growth of his popularity built into a memorial crescendo with the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in 1922 and his likeness carved onto Mt. Rushmore in 1937. This phenomenon extended to Europe.

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Lincoln in Scotland:
A Gift of the Gilded Age

On August 21, 1893, a bronze stature of Abraham Lincoln was erected in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland. This article examines the story of this monument and the motivations of the men who erected it, as a way of understanding Lincoln’s legacy on Scottish shores. Further, this gift from America to Scotland can be understood as a symbol of Gilded Age transatlantic relations.

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Abraham Lincoln in European Popular Culture

This article argues that Lincoln is not a universal hero, but rather an indigenous, U.S., ethnocentric one. Lincoln has generally been absent as a model in European social and public life, rarely emphasized as an essential part of education or in the public forum. Among the reasons given for this difference are inaccurate references to his ecumenical qualities and the often negative attitude in Europe towards a U.S. popular taste culture which is an expression of values, a vital, half-wild, half-tame, communal expression of ‘We, the People of the United States.’

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Matthew Brady’s Abraham Lincoln

Mathew Brady’s photographs of Lincoln were one of the major sources for press illustrations in both Europe and the United States. Understanding the medium itself—the photography and the photographer—offers an important key to understanding how the Lincoln image was constructed in Europe. This paper also investigates Brady’s link to power and his role as an observer.

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The Importance of Local Conditions in the Shaping of the Reception of Lincoln in Europe

The Lincoln Image in Germany

This essay investigates the enduring fascination with the sixteenth President of the United States in Germany. In general, his legacy and its evaluation changed in relation to the determinate historical contexts, beginning with the monarchial system, extending through the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, and now the Federal Republic of Germany.

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The Hidden Lincoln in French Opinion

Abraham Lincoln has never served as a model for French politicians. He was indeed compared to Carnot, the organizer of the French Revolutionary wars. But when Clemenceau led France in WWI, when De Gaulle stood for France’s independence in WWII, nobody thought of comparing them to Lincoln. This essay analyzes French public opinion during the American Civil War with a focus on Lincoln, based on a study of the few French books published between 1860 and 1865 on the US, diaries, a sample of conservative and republican daily papers, weekly reviews and illustrated newspapers.

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The French Masonic Tributes to Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865 sparked off a real shock wave in the United States as well as abroad. In France, as in the US, many Masonic institutions and Freemasons took initiatives to honor the memory of the great man, whose virtues were glorified and likened to Masonic values and were often based on the assumption that Lincoln was a Mason himself. However, French Freemasonry was highly politicized, and a close examination of the Masonic tributes to Lincoln also tells the story of a bitter political strife thinly veiled by the literary genre of eulogies, the fight of democracy against imperial rule.

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The Enduring Interest of European Academics in the Lincoln Enigma

Crafty Lincoln and Honest Abe in the Media War: The Homespun Spin and the Question of Authorship

One of the reasons why Lincoln failed to impress the European elites was that statesmen were expected to show a noble strength of purpose matched by a lofty style. He did not meet the criteria applicable to statesmen, who were expected to show strength of purpose and a personal style. Lack of appreciation of Lincoln’s literary style and of his statesmanship went hand in hand.

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Lincoln, Paine and the American Freethought Tradition

In the media as in a variety of books aimed at the general public, Abraham Lincoln’s name has often been paired with public figures who have been identified or have self-identified as modern-day freethinkers. This essay offers comments on the relationship between Lincoln and the American freethought tradition, with a final focus on Thomas Paine, all of which are considered in the context of the 2006 Lincoln bicentennial, the New Atheism movement, and the increase in the number of American “nones.”

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Teaching Lincoln in the U.S. and in Europe

Land of Lincoln: The Teaching of an Historical Icon at the University of Illinois, 2009

The celebrations of the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial revealed the continuing struggle to separate the man from the myth. Lincoln, who has long become an icon of popular culture, as a subject for teaching thus challenges teachers and students alike to divorce the historical figure from his cultural representation(s), which tends to push from view the complexities of his character and his age.

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Teaching Abraham Lincoln in the EFL Classroom: A German Case Study

This paper provides a German perspective on how and in what context American history in general is taught in German high schools, specifically in grades 11 to 13. It focuses on Abraham Lincoln as a potential subject in this context and concludes with some ideas on how and why Lincoln could be taught in the EFL, history or political science classrooms. Textbooks frequently used in German schools have been reviewed for that purpose.

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