Lincoln Research

My research and writing focuses primarily on Abraham Lincoln’s youth. I am co-editor (with William Bartelt) of Abe’s Youth: Shaping the Future President (Indiana University Press, 2019), an annotated edition of Lincoln Inquiry papers. I’m currently working on an annotated edition of Edward Murr’s papers on Lincoln’s life in Indiana, as well as a comprehensive history of Lincoln’s youth.

I serve on the board of directors of both the Abraham Lincoln Association and Abraham Lincoln Institute, and I am a member of The Lincoln Forum, American Historical Society, and Organization of American Historians. I am past chair and a current member of the Southern Indiana Civil War Roundtable and first commander and current officer of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War John W. Foster Camp No. 2. I frequently serve as a featured speaker on Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War.


Abe’s Youth: Shaping the Future President

Since his death, Abraham Lincoln has been celebrated as savior of the Union, proponent for emancipation, president of the United States, and skilled statesman. Although Lincoln’s adult life has been well documented and analyzed, most biographers have regarded his early years as inconsequential to his career and accomplishments.

In 1920 a group of historians known as the Lincoln Inquiry were determined to give Lincoln’s formative years their due. Abe’s Youth takes a look into their writings, which focus on Lincoln’s life between 7 to 21 years of age. By filling in the gaps on Lincoln’s childhood, the authors shed light on how his experiences growing up influenced the man he became. As the first fully annotated edition of the Lincoln Inquiry papers, Abe’s Youth offers indispensable reading for anyone hoping to learn about Lincoln’s early life. Read more about the book here.


Digital and Online Resources

  • Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress: The papers of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), lawyer, representative from Illinois, and sixteenth president of the United States, contain approximately 40,550 documents dating from 1774 to 1948, although most of the collection spans from the 1850s through Lincoln’s presidency (1861-1865). Roughly half of the collection, more than 20,000 documents, comprising 62,000 images, as well as transcriptions of approximately 10,000 documents, is online.
  • Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln: In 1947 the Abraham Lincoln Association (ALA) launched one of the most significant projects in Lincoln studies—a definitive edition of all the papers written by Abraham Lincoln under the direction of Roy Basler. The ALA, in cooperation with the University of Michigan, has made Basler’s work freely available online.
  • The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition: Beginning in 1985, participants in the Lincoln Legal Papers project traveled throughout Illinois collecting photocopies of every document pertaining to a legal case involving Lincoln. After fifteen years piecing together Lincoln’s legal career one document at a time, the editors released their database to the world. It includes thousands of legal case descriptions, as well as more than one hundred thousand legal documents, affidavits, court dockets, fee books, newspaper articles, and letters.
  • Ida Tarbell Papers: This collection encompasses Ms. Tarbell’s professional life as a journalist, author, and lecturer, including several hundred pages of notes she compiled while researching her articles and books on Lincoln. The Ida Tarbell Papers are housed online via her alma mater, Allegheny College, in Pennsylvania.
  • Abraham Lincoln: A Life: In 2008, Johns Hopkins University Press published Michael Burlingame’s Abraham Lincoln: A Life. His long-awaited two-volume opus came in at nearly two thousand pages, but the original version was even longer. As a result, Burlingame reached an agreement with his publisher to offer the unedited manuscript—larger in both narrative text and more exhaustive in documentation—online, free of charge.
  • Abraham Lincoln Association—Virtual Publications: The Abraham Lincoln Association website offers researchers access to digital versions of the association’s most popular publications, including monographs and every issue of the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.
  • House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College: Matthew Pinsker’s House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College offers researchers a look at the Civil War era through the prism of Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, from which both James Buchanan and Roger B. Taney graduated. There is also a substantive Lincoln-Douglas debates site, as well as another section that analyzes Lincoln’s writings, which was the product of an innovative online course in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
  • Abraham Lincoln Online: Created, written, and published by Rhoda and Lowell Sneller, Abraham Lincoln Online has been around for over a couple decades and remains a great central location for all things Lincoln, from breaking news and upcoming events to book announcements and author interviews.
  • The Abraham Lincoln Research Site: Created in 1996 by former history teacher Roger J. Norton, The Abraham Lincoln Research Site is a portal to dozens of links particularly suited for students and teachers, including a variety of classroom activities and lesson plans. The resource also offers research sites for the Lincoln assassination, the life of Mary Lincoln, and a discussion board called the Lincoln Discussion Symposium.
  • Lincoln/Net: This resource, hosted by Northern Illinois University, features lesson plans and uses Lincoln as a vehicle to examine larger social and political themes from his era.
  • The Lehrman Institute: This resource offers a diverse collection of sites devoted to students who want to learn more about Lincoln’s life and legacy. In addition to supporting the annual Lincoln Prize, which recognizes the best printed and electronic work on the Civil War and Lincoln, as well as the Hay-Nicolay Prize, awarded to the best doctoral dissertation about Lincoln, the Lehrman Institute has published and maintains eight different websites, such as Mr. Lincoln’s White House and Abraham Lincoln’s Classroom.
  • The Lincoln Forum: The Lincoln Forum is an assembly of people who share a deep interest in the life and times of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War era. Through a roster of activities and projects including symposia, tours, student essay competitions, teacher scholarships, a newsletter, and annual awards to recognize special contributions to the field of Lincoln studies, the Forum endeavors to enhance the understanding and preserve the memory of Abraham Lincoln.
  • The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: The Papers of Abraham Lincoln has launched an incredibly ambitious documentary editing project aimed at making high-quality digital scans of every document Lincoln wrote or received. They also intend to transcribe, annotate, and cross-reference the documents to make the collection especially useful to researchers. They envision a database that may grow to include two hundred thousand documents.

Most of the resources and their descriptions featured in this section are derived, and in some cases copied directly, from Samuel Wheeler, “Building a Twenty-First-Century Lincoln Memorial: The Digital Revolution in Lincoln Studies Scholarship,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, 37, no. 1 (Winter 2016): 30-47, available at