"A Humanitarian as Broad as the World": Abraham Lincoln's Legacy in International Context

Oct 04, 2007 - Oct 06, 2007

Conference at the GHI | Conveners: Gabor Boritt (Gettysrg College), Uwe Lübken (German Historical Institute, Washington, DC), Jörg Nagler (Friedrich Schiller University, Jena)

Endorsed by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission

Call for Papers

Abraham Lincoln is a world historical figure whose legacy continues to exert powerful influence to this day. Protesters against injustice all around the world have taken up his famous notion of “government of the people, by the people, for the people” – in Hungary in 1956, Tehran in 1979, and Tiananmen Square in 1989. Leo Tolstoy, during the 1909 centennial celebration of Lincoln’s birth, described him as “a humanitarian as broad as the world”. To Gandhi, he was a true cosmopolitan who “regarded the whole world as his native land”. Several African countries put his image on postage stamps as soon as they had freed themselves from colonial rule and he was looked on as a model by Nelson Mandela. Jawaharlal Nehru kept a brass mold of Lincoln’s right hand near him while Mao respected and admired the “Great Emancipator”.

Despite his tremendous historical stature, little research has been done on international perceptions of Lincoln. This conference will therefore concentrate on the reception of Lincoln as a politician, thinker, and moral example beyond the United States. Even in the midst of war, Lincoln recognized that the abolition of slavery, the preservation of the Union, and the survival of a democratic government in the United States would have worldwide repercussions. He also understood how severely the “peculiar institution” of slavery compromised America’s international standing and undermined the nation’s constitutional principles.

Questions that this conference will address include, but are not limited to the following topics:

  • How, why, and in what historical contexts have Lincoln’s notions of political equality inspired reformist and revolutionary leaders in widely different societies worldwide?
  • What significance should we attach to the fact that his international reputation began to grow sharply after 1945—that is, just when former European colonies were asserting their independence?
  • Did Lincoln’s legacy influence or even hasten the decolonization process?
  • How have the image and iconography of Lincoln been used to advance human rights in Africa, South and Central America, and elsewhere?
  • What do these perceptions of Lincoln tell us about those producing these images and symbols?
  • Has this self-made man and martyred president been perceived as a representative of the American dream or as a universal prophet of freedom and brotherhood?

Please send a proposal of no more than 300 words and a brief CV to Christa Brown. The deadline for submission is May 01, 2007. Participants will be notified by mid-June at the latest.
The conference will be held in English and focus on the discussion of precirculated papers of about 7,000 to 8,000 words (due by September 15, 2007). The GHI will cover the cost of travel and accommodations for participants. Please send inquiries to Uwe Lübken.
Christa Brown
- Lincoln's Legacy in International Context -
German Historical Institute
1607 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009
Fax: 202-483-3430