“Martin Van Buren: The Romantic Age of American Politics” by John Niven was published in 1983. Niven was a professor of history at Claremont Graduate University and a nationally known scholar of Jacksonian and Civil War history. He was previously a doctoral student of Allan Nevins at Columbia University where he received his PhD in 1955. Niven died in 1997.
Niven’s “Martin Van Buren” is the first modern biography of the eighth president, and one of only two in my library. With more than six-hundred pages of text and eighty pages of notes it presents itself as a thorough and meticulously researched profile of one of our lesser-known presidents. What is less apparent, at least until the reader digests a chapter or two, is that the book’s first half is really a comprehensive tome on early nineteenth century New York state politics.
Although I didn’t particularly enjoy Niven’s biography of Martin Van Buren, it is solid in several respects. First, in its earliest pages the author provides a brief but excellent introduction to…
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