REFERENCE

Presidents and Presidencies in American History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection

ABC-CLIO. Oct. 2019. 1,451p. ed. by Girard, Jolyon P. Tr $449. ISBN 9781440865909.
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Gr 8 Up–This four-volume encyclopedia attempts a thorough exploration of all the U.S. presidents, with mixed results. Each president through 2018 receives a chronology, a biographical profile, historical context, and analytical essays that precede several primary documents (chiefly speeches) with explanatory and source notes. (William Henry Harrison and James Garfield get biographies only.) A brief introduction provides a valuable 250-year overview, followed by text of the articles and amendments relevant to “The Constitution and the Presidency.” Serious omissions weaken some entries: George H.W. Bush’s inaction on HIV-AIDS; Barack Obama’s DACA policy and judicial nominations; Donald Trump’s “birtherism” and family separations. Selected further reading lists include online sources; usually modest, though some are more lengthy (Jimmy Carter, Trump). The preface cautions against reductionism, subjectivity, and presentism, and Girard and his collaborators have largely avoided these pitfalls. Their writing is stylistically uneven but clear, and their objectivity is notable in entries on presidents who elicit fervid factionalism.
VERDICT Secondary students will find useful summaries overall, but there is insufficient information on recent presidencies.

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