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January 19, 2012
10 b&w illus.
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.9 Pounds (US)
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v2.1 Reference

Everybody's History

Indiana's Lincoln Inquiry and the Quest to Reclaim a President's Past

Revered by the public, respected by scholars, and imitated by politicians, Abraham Lincoln remains influential more than two hundred years after his birth. His memory has inspired books, monuments, and museums and also sparked controversies, rivalries, and forgeries. That so many people have been interested in Lincoln for so long makes him an ideal subject for exploring why history matters to ordinary Americans as well as to academic specialists.

In Everybody's History, Keith A. Erekson focuses on the Southwestern Indiana Historical Society—an organization composed of lawyers, historians, collectors, genealogists, teachers, college presidents, and newspaper editors—who joined together during the 1920s and 1930s to recover a part of Lincoln's life his biographers had long ignored: the years from age seven to twenty-one when he lived on the Indiana frontier. Participants in the "Lincoln Inquiry," as it was commonly known, researched old records, interviewed aging witnesses, hosted pageants, built a historical village, and presented their findings in public and in print. Along the way they defended their methods and findings against competitors in the fields of public history and civic commemoration, and rescued some of Indiana's own history by correcting a forgotten chapter of Lincoln's.

Everybody's History traces the development of popular interest in Lincoln to uncover the story of an extensive network of nonprofessional historians who contested old authorities and advanced new interpretations. In so doing, the book invites all who are interested in the past to see history as both vital to public life and meaningful to everybody.

About the Author

Keith A. Erekson is assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at El Paso. Visit the author's website at Or find Everybody's History on Facebook at


"This book should be required reading for any public history program as it sheds light not only on the evolution of the field but also on the occasional 'disconnect' between public history and academia. It also acknowledges the rivalries and jealousies that can develop between scholars and between researchers, which is still the case today."—Timothy P. Townsend

"This book's great value is in stimulating historians to think about what they do and how and why they do it. . . . Erekson's perceptive monograph makes the Lincoln Inquiry as relevant to the twenty-first century as it was to the nineteenth."—The Journal of American History

"One wishes for more studies like this one that might link national-level historiography with the popular construction of American history."—Indiana Magazine of History

"Everybody's History is both an engaging narrative of Lincoln studies in the early twentieth century and a sophisticated appraisal of the process and practices of historical inquiry. . . . Challenging, yet accessible."—The Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

"Keith A. Erekson's intriguing little book is many things, but typical is not one of them. Part institutional history, part historiographical review, and part methodological discourse, Erekson's enthusiasm for his topic shines through on every page, giving life to a narrative that could have make for dry reading in lest invested hands."—Ohio Valley History

"This is an excellent study which would be essential reading for anyone interested in oral history, public history, or Abraham Lincoln. Erekson reminds us that, while in 2012 historians may still do traditional research in climate controlled archives, they also practice history in a variety of other locations including dusty courthouses, overstuffed attics, grave sites, river bends, and reconstructed villages. . . . Erekson concludes that there are many benefits when a thousand minds participate in the public study of history 'because history is everybody's subject, everybody's history matters.' It is difficult to disagree with his conclusion."—Civil War Book Review
University of Massachusetts Press
Psychiatry and the Humanities

9781558499157 : everybodys-history-erekson
Paperback / softback
256 Pages
$27.95 USD

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