Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln is really a phenomenally good film. Usually historians go to gripe at historical epics like this. There is no shortage of dreadful films about US history that perpetuate horrible historical inaccuracies. This is not one of them. While I have plenty of quibbles with the detail, the big historical picture feels right. […]

Well, no, not really. Slavery did that. But democracy — by which I mean (1) a participative relatively open political system; (2) newspapers that were often very partial and partisan; (3) a political culture in which the idea of majority rule was idealised — may well have made the war more likely. The US had […]

It is one of the most familiar cries in American politics: partisanship is the problem. Think of the words associated with partisanship — deadlock, gridlock, extremism, vitriol. When something is described as ‘partisan’ it’s the same as saying it’s become near-insoluble. It is a deadly paradox — the United States has a political system dominated […]

A couple of years ago I did some work on the image of Abraham Lincoln in England. It’s an interesting subject because at certain moments Lincoln has really mattered — not just in the United States but in England too. People cared about him. In the 1860s miners in Northeast England bought cheap portraits of […]