Book Talk: Historian Holt finds admiration for President Pierce

Wed Apr 21, 2010 11:40am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - When historian Michael F. Holt was asked to write a book on Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States, he admits he had little interest in the Democrat who ran the country from 1853 to 1857.

But Holt, a leading historian of 19th century U.S. politics and author of six books, said he was asked to write the book as the 32nd volume in The American Presidents Series by respected historian and series editor Arthur M. Schlesinger who died just days after writing to him.

He set out knowing that Pierce was regarded as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history whose single-minded partisan loyalties inflamed the nation's simmering battle over slavery but ended up with a certain admiration for him.

Holt spoke to Reuters about Pierce and about his writing:

Q: Did you need to change your writing for the series?

A: "The only pressure was limits on the number of words as they want short books. The directions were 35,000 to 50,000 words and I came in at 40,000 words. One had to condense a great deal."

Q: How did you find new material?

A: "I am not sure how much new I brought to it. I really only went on what has been previously written and the research I had done. We have a wonderful, digitalized collection of 19th century newspapers. I used some for my research funds to help our library buy that. I typed in Franklin Pierce and got 7,000 hits. I could get lots of reference to Pierce in obscure newspapers."   Continued...

<p>A portrait of U.S. President Franklin Pierce, who served from 1853-1857. REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout</p>