The RAI congratulates Richard Carwardine, Rhodes Professor Emeritus of American History, who has won the Abraham Lincoln Institute’s Annual Book Award for his new book Lincoln’s Sense of Humor (Southern Illinois UP, 2017).
Abraham Lincoln was the first president to make storytelling, jokes, and laughter tools of the office, and his natural sense of humour has become legendary. Lincoln’s Sense of Humor registers the variety, complexity of purpose, and ethical dimension of Lincoln’s humour and pinpoints the political risks Lincoln ran in telling jokes while the nation was engaged in a bloody struggle for existence.
Complete with amusing anecdotes, this book shows how Lincoln’s uses of humour evolved as he matured and explores its versatility, range of expressions, and multiple sources: western tall tales, morality stories, bawdy jokes, linguistic tricks, absurdities, political satire, and sharp wit. While Lincoln excelled at self-mockery, nothing gave him greater pleasure than satirical work lampooning hypocrisy and ethical double standards. He particularly enjoyed David R. Locke’s satiric writings by Petroleum V. Nasby, a fictional bigoted secessionist preacher, and the book explores the nuances of Lincoln’s enthusiasm for what he called Locke’s genius, showing the moral springs of Lincoln’s humour.
Richard Carwardine was Rhodes Professor of American History at Oxford University between 2002 and 2009 and President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, between 2010 and 2016. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and a Distinguished Fellow of the RAI.