rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 3: p. 261
Sources: Chronology of the U.S. Presidency
Joseph A. Hurley

Data Services, Geosciences, Gov’t Info, Maps and GIS Librarian, Georgia State University Library, Atlanta

The highest office of the US government, the presidency, has been held by forty-three men. Each of these presidents came to office with their own vision of the presidency, which would not only help shape the nation, but would also shape and expand the powers of the executive branch. Chronology of the U.S. Presidency, a four volume reference set, chronicles each United States president from George Washington to Barack Obama. Edited by Mathew Manweller, associate professor of political science at Central Washington University, this set is targeted toward high school and undergraduate students.

Organized chronologically, entries for each of the forty-three presidents follow an identical format, with each including the following sections: basic statistics, presidential biography, first family biography, cabinet member overview, chronological list of key dates and events, primary source documents, and a bibliography. Chronology also includes an excellent introductory essay expounding upon the history and extraordinary growth of the American presidency and its expansion of powers. Finally, this work concludes with an equally important essay that further explains the powers, structure, and process of the presidency and how the office has changed over time.

Chronology stands out for its uniform organization, inclusion of basic electoral statistics, and a superb overview of the key elements of each administration including the role of the commander-in-chief’s cabinet members and the contributions of each First Lady. This work not only includes information about the first families and cabinet members, it also provides the reader with several abridged primary source documents from each president. Although this title supplies readers with ample information about each president and key figures and events during their time in office, this work does not necessarily provide a critical assessment of the presidency. While each biographical section includes some limited interpretive treatment, the general theme of this work is to provide the reader with actual facts, such as dates and events, with very little critical interpretation of policy decisions and political actions. Works such as Melvin I. Urofsky’s The American Presidents (Garland, 2000) and Robert P. Watson’s The American Presidents (Salem Press, 2006) provide a more critical, though less structured, overview of American presidents.

As the title suggests, Chronology of the U.S. Presidency is a linier study of the presidents in which the dates of events such as important speeches, meetings with foreign leaders, and the signing of bills and acts are delineated in the chronology section of each entry. The biographical treatment of each president, while in essay form, also reads more like a chronology and begins with a description of each president’s childhood life, then follows with a description of his rise to the presidency, his time as president, and his life after holding office. Explicitly designed to highlight events chronologically, this approach coupled with its uniform layout, makes Chronology of the U.S. Presidency a highly accessible reference work for the general public and both high school and undergraduate students seeking background information on any United States president or his administration. This work is recommended for high school libraries, medium to large-size public libraries, and academic libraries.

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