Lauren B: James Monroe

James Monroe, by Gary Hart

I will totally admit, I picked this biography for my Presidential Challenge because it was short and sweet. I did the same thing for Thomas Jefferson and it was a disaster but luckily this one turned out to be a good bet!

James Monroe is recognized as the last Revolutionary War generation president, and I was nervous that this book would focus on that period, but the focus was definitely on Monroe’s time as Secretary of State and President. I had a vague recollection of the Monroe Doctrine from what I’d learned in school, but it was fascinating to learn how much of our border and international policy stems from Monroe’s time in office. It’s interesting that these policies took shape during a time (one of the only times) that very little political partisanship existed – it makes sense that during such a time, leadership would take advantage of the solidarity and focus on ironing out international affairs.

Overall I liked the writing, considering most of the author’s sources were secondary. He did a good job of summarizing without being boring. My only complaint is that he repeats himself a little too often – in historical non-fiction there is often reference to events that get discussed later in the book, but Hart actually reuses wording and rehashes certain points a little too often.

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