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Publisher's Summary

In this lively and compelling biography, Harlow Giles Unger reveals the dominant political figure of a generation. A fierce fighter in four critical Revolutionary War battles and a courageous survivor of Valley Forge and a near-fatal wound at the Battle of Trenton, James Monroe (1751 - 1831) went on to become America's first full-time politician, dedicating his life to securing America's national and international durability.
Decorated by George Washington for his exploits as a soldier, Monroe became a congressman, a senator, U.S. minister to France and Britain, governor of Virginia, secretary of state, secretary of war, and finally America's fifth president.
The country embraced Monroe's dreams of empire and elected him to two terms, the second time unanimously. Mentored by each of Americas first four presidents, Monroe was unquestionably the best prepared president in our history.
Like David McCullough's John Adams and Jon Meacham's recent book on Andrew Jackson, this new biography of Monroe is both a solid listen and a stellar scholarship history in the grand tradition.
©2009 Harlow Giles Unger (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"[A] cogent reexamination of a relatively neglected American icon...Unger makes a solid and cohesive argument for Monroe's importance in the early years of the United States....A worthy attempt to rescue Monroe from obscurity for a mainstream audience." ( Kirkus Reviews)
"[A] well-written biography...Unger presents the fifth president as a man of independence and initiative rather than merely a disciple of Jefferson, Madison, and John Quincy Adams...Will appeal to a more popular audience, especially those who enjoy presidential history or studying the Founding Fathers. Historians and history students should read as well." ( Library Journal)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Robert Bartel on 12-22-10

Readable, but more hero worship than history

I am not a historian, but after having listened to several books about revolutionary era history and politics I found it difficult to listen to this one. Unger's Monroe almost never makes an error in judgement, is single-handedly responsible for America's post-Madison economic boom, and is heroic to all of his time. Even George Washington doesn't get this kind of hero worship - at least not in Chernow's "Washington, A Life".

That said, as a work of hero worship it is engaging and well written, and well performed by McConnohie. If historical perspective and balance is not your goal you will likely enjoy listening to it.

At the time I read it it was the only biography of Monroe on Audible so I can't suggest you to listen to a different one. However, if you're going to read it keep your skepticism on guard.

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18 of 21 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By David I. Williams on 04-23-13

Good introduction, Worth Listening To.

In this biography Harlow Giles Unger brings us a portrait of a man who few know much about today. Born in colonial Virginia Monroe was orphaned at a young age. He took on the responsibility of raising his younger siblings. When the American Revolution broke out Monroe joined up. He became an officer, was wounded at the Battle of Trenton, was decorated by Washington. He served as a Congressman, a Senator, as Governor of Virginia, and as Ambassador to the French Republic. Later he would serve as Secretary of State and Secretary of War under James Madison. He would then succeed Madison as President.

This book has its good and bad points. It is well written and should be easy for the general reader. It is quite informative and gives a good portrait of Monroe. On the downside the author tries a little to hard to build up Monroe by pulling down others around him. Monroe was a firm supporter of the French Revolution and, like Jefferson and Madison, cheered on the slaughter of the former ruling class. This is played down considerably in this book. The author also finds it necessary to try and pull down the character of both John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams. Since the younger Adams was the Secretary of State during Monroe's presidency much credit is given to him for the success of the United States in that era. Unger tries to argue that Monroe was the better diplomat. The only reason that he gives is that Monroe was ambassador to France and Adams was not. He ignores the fact that Adams had been involved in Foreign service for most of his life, including a stint as the secretary and interpreter to the first US ambassador to Russia when he was a young teenager. Adams had served as Ambassador to Prussia and Russia. He had helped to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent. To dismiss his many accomplishments with a single backhanded comment was quite uncalled for.

It is a good book and is well worth reading.

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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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