Welcome to the website for the Routledge Historical Americans series!
Routledge Historical Americans is a series of short, vibrant biographies that illuminate the lives of Americans who have had an impact on the world. Each book includes a short overview of the person’s life and puts that person into historical context through essential primary documents, written both by the subjects and about them. A series website supports the books, containing extra images and documents, links to further research, and where possible, multi-media sources on the subjects. Perfect for including in any course on American History, the books in the Routledge Historical Americans series show the impact everyday people can have on the course of history.
From this page you can find out about any of the books in the series. The books are listed in alphabetical order by the subject’s last name.
Click on the series title to return to the series page.
In 1993, William J. Clinton began his eight-year stint as forty-second president of the United States. A key figure of change in the Democratic Party, Clinton's political and personal actions ensured his lasting status as an important if controversial leader at a critical moment in recent American history. In Bill Clinton: Building a Bridge to the New Millennium, David H. Bennett traces Clinton's life and career from childhood through his two terms in the White House.
Frederick Douglass was born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland, in February, 1818. From these humble beginnings, Douglass went on to become a world-famous orator, newspaper editor, and champion of the rights of women and African Americans. He was the most prominent African American activist of the nineteenth century. He remains important in American history because he moved beyond relief at his own personal freedom to dedicating his life to the progress of his race and his country.
Belle La Follette
In 1931, the New York Times hailed Belle Case La Follette as "probably the least known yet most influential of all the American women who have had to do with public affairs." A dedicated advocate for women's suffrage, peace, and other causes, she served as a key advisor to her husband, leading Progressive politician Robert La Follette. She also wielded considerable influence through her own speeches and journalism, as when she opposed racism by speaking out against the segregation of the federal government under President Woodrow Wilson.
Known for his influential role in the debates that established the founding documents of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was not only an astute politician, but also an Atlantic citizen whose commitment to the American cause was informed by years spent in England and France. The life of this iconic founder provides an ideal opportunity for students to take a closer look at eighteenth century colonial society and the contested formation of the early American nation.
Woody Guthrie is the most famous and influential folk music composer and performer in the history of the United States. His most popular song, "This Land is Your Land" has become the country's unofficial national anthem, known to every school child since the 1960s. His influence exceeded the realm of American music, reaching American politics. Guthrie’s music became the soundtrack to the Great Depression, and iconic of the Dust Bowl migrants. Guthrie and his music came to represent those disenfranchised people who remained committed to making better lives for themselves through the promise of the American Dream.
Often referred to as "the voice of the Revolution", Patrick Henry played a vital role in helping to launch the revolt of the American colonies against British rule. An early and compelling Revolutionary orator, Henry played an active part in the debates over the founding of the United States. As a leading anti-federalist, he argued against the ratification of the Constitution, and at the state level, he opposed Thomas Jefferson’s Statute of Religious Freedom in Virginia. In both his political triumphs and defeats, Henry was influential in establishing the nature of public discourse for a generation of new Americans.
Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of the United States. Known as "Old Hickory," he was the first President who championed the rights of the 'common man'. Originally from the frontier, he was known for being rough in speech and mannerisms and his fierce temper. After making his name as a general fighting the Creek Indians in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and the British in the Battle of New Orleans, he entered politics, resulting in the creation of the modern Democratic party. However, Jackson is best known today for the harsh stand he took on Indian Removal.
John F. Kennedy
Half a century after his assassination, John F. Kennedy continues to evoke widespread fascination, looming large in America’s historical memory. Popular portrayals often show Kennedy as a mythic, heroic figure, but these depictions have often obscured the details of the president’s actual achievements and failures. Despite the briefness of his presidency, Kennedy dealt with many of the issues that would come to define the 1960s, including U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the wider Cold War, and the growing Civil Rights movement at home.
One of America’s most compelling First Ladies, Mary Lincoln possessed a unique vantage point on the events of her time, even as her experiences of the constraints of gender roles and the upheaval of the Civil War reflected those of many other women. The story of her life presents a microcosm through which we can understand the complex and dramatic events of the nineteenth century in the United States, including vital issues of gender, war and the divisions between North and South. The daughter of a Southern, slave-holding family, Mary Lincoln had close ties to people on both sides of the war. Her life shows how the North and South were interconnected, even as the country was riven by sectarian strife.
Thurgood Marshall was an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1967 to 1991. He was the first African American to hold that position, and was one of the most influential legal actors of his time. Before being appointed to the Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson, Marshall was a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Federal Judge (1961–1965), and Solicitor General of the United States (1965–1966). Marshall won 29 of 32 cases before the Supreme Court—most notably the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education, which held segregated public schools unconstitutional. Marshall spent his career fighting racial segregation and legal inequality, and his time on the court establishing a record for supporting the “voiceless American.” He left a legacy of change that still affects American society today.
Few politicians in recent American history are as well-known as Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. president. An iconic leader, Reagan shifted the direction of American politics toward a newly vigorous conservatism. Though he began his career as a New Deal liberal, by the end of the 1950s, Reagan had embraced conservative views. His presidency saw the longest peacetime prosperity in American history, as well as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, but also skyrocketing deficits and the Iran-Contra scandal. In the twenty-first century, Reagan’s legacy is both pervasive and contested, with supporters and detractors often divided along partisan lines. Yet Reagan’s own actions did not always fit into partisan boxes.
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman presided over one of the most challenging times in American history—the end of World War II and the onset of the Cold War. Thrust into the presidency after Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office, Truman oversaw the transition to a new, postwar world in which the United States wielded the influence of a superpower. With his humble beginnings and straightforward manner, Truman was the personification of a typical American. As president, however, he dealt with decisions that were anything but typical. His presidency saw the decision to drop the atomic bomb, the integration of the military, and the development of an interventionist foreign policy aimed at ‘containing’ Communism, from providing aid in the Marshall Plan to entering the Korean War. In the post-Cold War era, Harry S. Truman: The Coming of the Cold War provides insight into a pivotal moment in history that laid the foundations of today’s politics and international relations.
Although Sojourner Truth was born into bondage and oppression, in liberation she emerged as a leader in the most radical causes of her era. She travelled the country as an outspoken and riveting presence, battling for the abolition of slavery and for women’s suffrage. While her role in these movements has been well-documented, biographers have frequently overlooked the influence of religion in Truth’s life. A participant in a number of the most significant religious movements of her day, including the Methodist Perfectionists, the Kingdom of Matthias, the Utopians, and the Spiritualists, Truth drew her notions of justice from religion.
Ida B. Wells
Born into slavery in 1862, Ida B. Wells went on to become an influential reformer and leader in the African American community. A Southern black woman living in a time when little social power was available to people of her race or gender, Ida B. Wells made an extraordinary impact on American society through her journalism and activism. Best-known for her anti-lynching crusade, which publicly exposed the extralegal killings of African Americans, Wells was also an outspoken advocate for social justice in issues including women's suffrage, education, housing, the legal system, and poor relief.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote stories that have defined the American frontier for generations of readers. As both author and character in her own books, she became one of the most famous figures in American children’s literature. Her famous Little House on the Prairie series, based on her childhood in Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, and South Dakota, blended memoir and fiction into a vivid depiction of 19th-century settler life that continues to shape many Americans’ understanding of the country’s past. Poised between fiction and fact, literature and history, Wilder’s life is a fascinating window on the American west.
Puritan politician, lawyer, and lay theologian John Winthrop fled England in 1630 when it looked like Charles I had successfully blocked all hopes of passing Puritan-inspired reforms in Parliament. Leading a migration, he came to New England in the hopes of creating an ideal Puritan community and eventually became the governor of Massachusetts. Winthrop is remembered for his role in the Puritan migration to the colonies and for delivering what is probably the most famous lay sermon in American history, "A Model of Christian Charity." In it he proclaimed that New England would be "a city upon a hill"--an example for future colonies. In John Winthrop: Founding the City upon a Hill, Michael Parker examines the political and religious history of this iconic figure. In this short biography, bolstered by letters, sermons, and maps, John Winthrop introduces students to the colonial world, the Pequot Wars, and the history of American Exceptionalism.
Brigham Young was one of the most influential—and controversial—Mormon leaders in American history. An early follower of the new religion, he led the cross-continental migration of the Mormon people from Illinois to Utah, where he built a vast religious empire that was both revolutionary and authoritarian, radically different from yet informed by the existing culture of the U.S. With his powerful personality and sometimes paradoxical convictions, Young left an enduring stamp on both his church and the region, and his legacy remains active today.