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Publisher's Summary

From a preeminent presidential historian comes a groundbreaking and often surprising saga of America’s wartime chief executives.

Ten years in the research and writing, Presidents of War is a fresh, magisterial, intimate look at a procession of American leaders as they took the nation into conflict and mobilized their country for victory. It brings us into the room as they make the most difficult decisions that face any president, at times sending hundreds of thousands of American men and women to their deaths. 

From James Madison and the War of 1812 to recent times, we see them struggling with Congress, the courts, the press, their own advisors, and antiwar protesters; seeking comfort from their spouses, families, and friends; and dropping to their knees in prayer. We come to understand how these presidents were able to withstand the pressures of war - both physically and emotionally - or were broken by them.

Beschloss’s interviews with surviving participants in the drama and his findings in original letters, diaries, once-classified national security documents, and other sources help him to tell this story in a way it has not been told before. Presidents of War combines the sense of being there with the overarching context of two centuries of American history. This important audiobook shows how far we have traveled from the time of our founders, who tried to constrain presidential power, to our modern day, when a single leader has the potential to launch nuclear weapons that can destroy much of the human race.

©2018 Michael Beschloss (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"In this brilliant work, Michael Beschloss burnishes his already bright reputation. He tells a gripping tale of courage and mendacity as well as recurring defiance of the constitutional requirement to seek congressional approval for making war. A monumental and profoundly important achievement.” (Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Grant)

“In this monumental book, the incomparable Michael Beschloss tells the riveting story of how, through history, our Presidents came to be so powerful and to lead Americans into waging major wars. With his new research discoveries and unerring eye for human detail, Beschloss has brought us an unforgettable narrative. Presidents of War is a landmark book about power, leadership and human nature itself.” (Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Soul of America)

“Once again, Beschloss captures our Presidents in terms both historic and human, showing that whoever holds the office will fearlessly - or fearfully - impact our world.” (Tom Hanks, author of Uncommon Type)

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