The President and the Assassin

The President and the Assassin

McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century

Book - 2011
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In 1901, as America tallied its gains from a period of unprecedented imperial expansion, an assassin's bullet shattered the nation's confidence. The shocking murder of President William McKinley threw into stark relief the emerging new world order of what would come to be known as the American Century. The President and the Assassin is the story of the momentous years leading up to that event, and of the very different paths that brought together two of the most compelling figures of the era: President William McKinley and Leon Czolgosz, the anarchist who murdered him.

The two men seemed to live in eerily parallel Americas. McKinley was to his contemporaries an enigma, a president whose conflicted feelings about imperialism reflected the country's own. Under its popular Republican commander-in-chief, the United States was undergoing an uneasy transition from a simple agrarian society to an industrial powerhouse spreading its influence overseas by force of arms. Czolgosz was on the losing end of the economic changes taking place--a first-generation Polish immigrant and factory worker sickened by a government that seemed focused solely on making the rich richer. With a deft narrative hand, journalist Scott Miller chronicles how these two men, each pursuing what he considered the right and honorable path, collided in violence at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

Along the way, readers meet a veritable who's who of turn-of-the-century America: John Hay, McKinley's visionary secretary of state, whose diplomatic efforts paved the way for a half century of Western exploitation of China; Emma Goldman, the radical anarchist whose incendiary rhetoric inspired Czolgosz to dare the unthinkab≤ and Theodore Roosevelt, the vainglorious vice president whose 1898 charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba is but one of many thrilling military adventures recounted here.

Rich with relevance to our own era, The President and the Assassin holds a mirror up to a fascinating period of upheaval when the titans of industry grew fat, speculators sought fortune abroad, and desperate souls turned to terrorism in a vain attempt to thwart the juggernaut of change.

Praise for The President and the Assassin
"[A] panoramic tour de force . . . Miller has a good eye, trained by years of journalism, for telling details and enriching anecdotes."--The Washington Independent Review of Books
"Even without the intrinsic draw of the 1901 presidential assassination that shapes its pages, Scott Miller's The President and the Assassin [is] absorbing reading. . . . What makes the book compelling is [that] so many circumstances and events of the earlier time have parallels in our own."-- The Oregonian
"A marvelous work of history, wonderfully written."--Fareed Zakaria, author of The Post-American World
"A real triumph."-- BookPage
"Fast-moving and richly detailed."-- The Buffalo News
"[A] compelling read."-- The Boston Globe
One of Newsweek 's 10 Must-Read Summer Books
Publisher: New York : Random House, c2011.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9781400067527
Branch Call Number: 973.88/MILLER
Characteristics: viii, 422 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.


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Apr 24, 2018

Great book to read about the time period of the very late 1800's, and learn about McKinley, US expansion into other countries, anarchy...

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 04, 2016

This book is less about the individuals (the president and the assassin) and more about the period and the prevailing attitudes at the turn of the century. Granted, William McKinley is not one of the most well-known presidents. And surely there isn't much information regarding Leon Czolgosz. Still, I hoped for a little more sustenance regarding the two figures, however, there's plenty here about industry, military, anarchy, politics, and society in the late nineteenth century. The author does wonderfully to portray the facts and withhold personal feelings.

lbarkema Nov 25, 2015

This was an incredibly readable account of McKinley's presidency and the rise or "life" of anarchism in the late 19th century. I enjoyed the way in which it was told, with parallel stories flipping back and forth between McKinley's presidency and dealings with foreign policy, and the history of anarchists in the United States and how Leon Czolgosz came to assassinate the President. I would absolutely recommend this book for some insight into the last decade of the 19th century, a time in American history that I knew little about.

JCLGreggW Mar 28, 2014

A wonderful read and a nice readalike for Erik Larson's DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY.

Jul 12, 2011

Very well told account of the assassination of President McKinley, weaving together the parallel stories of the President and the assassin, adding in the background of the Spanish-American war, the Boxer rebellion, society of the time, and the rise of the anarchist movement. Highly recommended and well written.


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