In observance of Dwight David Eisenhower’s one-hundredth birthday in 1990, the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans sponsored a series of lectures by distinguished American and European scholars who espouse an exciting breadth of interpretation regarding the man and his times. InEisenhower: A Centenary Assessment, Günter Bischof and Stephen E. Ambrose have assembled thirteen of those lectures, revised and updated, thus providing an important contribution to scholarship on the thirty-fourth United States president.
The collection is truly balanced in the interpretive sense, with essays by leading revisionist and postrevisionist scholars on Eisenhower. Four of the essays address Eisenhower historiography and his role as military commander, two concern his presidential domestic policies, and the remainder represent an assortment of ongoing research into select areas of his foreign policy by a younger generation of scholars, demonstrating how much the evaluation of Eisenhower’s handling of foreign affairs remains in ferment. Ambrose concludes the volume with a broad summary of Eisenhower’s achievements and legacies.
As Bischof and Ambrose state in their Introduction, Eisenhower played a central role for so long and so crucial a period in twentieth-century history that his impact, contributions, successes, and failures will be subject to reinterpretation and debate for as long as Western civilization lasts. His reputation has already undergone ups and downs—from the negative opinions of his contemporaries to the enthusiasm of revisionists in the late seventies and early eighties to the more critical assessments of postrevisionist scholars in the late eighties and the nineties. Such is the inevitable cycle of scholarship, to look at old problems with new perspectives, using new documentation or innovative methods, to arrive at new conclusions. This centennial reexamination of Eisenhower’s place in history will remain a milestone in years to come.
GŁnter Bischof is associate professor of history at the University of New Orleans.
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