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The Global Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln and his legacy comprise a global story.

Perhaps more than any other American figure, Abraham Lincoln became a global figure after his death.  He continues to speak – to people across the world. As the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George put it, Lincoln “lost his nationality in death.”

His political principles, his record of successful executive leadership in wartime, his role as the ‘Great Emancipator,’ his resolute defence of popular government, and the perception of him as a model of human brotherhood made him an international cult figure.

  • Karl Marx judged him "the single-minded son of the working class."
  • Cuban rebels invoked his name in support of their struggle for emancipation and self-government.
  • Leo Tolstoy reported his fame in Asia’s Caucasus Mountains;
  • Tomas Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia, drew strength as "the Lincoln of Central Europe."
  • Racially-mixed, republican "Lincoln brigades" fought in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

More recently, Britain’s new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, quoted Lincoln in his acceptance speech as the leader of the Labour Party.  And Manchester, England (among many other cities), features a Lincoln statue by U.S. aritst George Grey Barnard.

By 1900, works on Lincoln had been published in 16 major languages.  Over the next 25 years or so the list had extended to embrace another nine languages. 

After the Second World War, Lincoln continued to enjoy an international reputation, winning admirers among statesmen and ordinary people across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

During and after the collapse of communism, he provided a democratic model for the people of Poland, the Baltic states, and others in eastern Europe.

Lincoln’s vision of the Union as the ‘last, best hope of earth’ revealed his belief that the Civil War was something larger than simply an American problem. The story of “the Global Lincoln,” however, is more than just an examination of his views on international questions.  It is a committment to understanding Lincoln in an increasingly globalized and multicultural world.