This A–Z encyclopedia provides a detailed overview of America's 11th president and connects Polk's public and personal life to his historical significance.
Who is James K. Polk? The Whigs asked that question in 1844, when they heard that the Democrats had nominated him for president. Today, even with the benefit of more than a century of historical study and analysis, Americans still know little about a man whom scholars rank as one of our most successful presidents.
In 1844, James K. Polk was not a promising presidential nominee—he was not popular, charismatic, or even well known. But by the time he left office in 1849, he had acquired the enormous Oregon Territory by negotiation and had taken by force more than half of Mexico's territory, an area of about 500,000 square miles.
Yet Polk's territorial successes inspired the rancorous debate over whether slavery should be allowed in the new territories—a debate that ended in civil war. Modern critics charge that Polk's actions toward Mexico were amoral if not immoral. In this comprehensive examination of Polk's life and career, our 11th president emerges as a complex man and a skillful politician who pursued power relentlessly.
Features • A timeline highlighting key events from Polk's first political victory in the 1823 election to the Tennessee House of Representatives to the posthumous publication of his personal diaries in 1910 • A sampling of key writings, including four of Polk's annual messages to Congress
Highlights • A detailed examination of one of America's least known but most successful presidents • The first scholarly treatment of James K. Polk in recent years
Mark E. Byrnes is associate professor of political science at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN.
Reviews "...In the only encyclopedic works devoted to these presidents entries for people, events, and concepts are presented in an accessible A–Z format. Authoritative...these attractive volumes would work for students at the high-school level and up.' [Combined review of Andrew Johnson and James Polk in the Biographical Companions series]"—Booklist