• The President and the Assassin

  • McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century
  • By: Scott Miller
  • Narrated by: Arthur Morey
  • Length: 13 hrs and 58 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (310 ratings)

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The President and the Assassin

By: Scott Miller
Narrated by: Arthur Morey
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Publisher's Summary

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, listeners 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 unthinkable; 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.

©2011 Scott Miller (P)2011 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"This is a wildly complex and significant period in American history, and Miller does a solid job of attending to the many boiling pots on the stove." ( Kirkus)

What listeners say about The President and the Assassin

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An Ideal History Book for the Audio Format

This turned out to be one of the best audiobooks I???ve bought. A popular history, it covers the McKinley presidency, beginning with the crucial defeat of the agrarian-labor populist Bryant by means of a truly paradigmatic coalition of the country???s capitalists (including unprecedented fund-raising, advertising, and even threats by owners to close factories and eliminate jobs en mass if Bryant won). As the author rightly argues, the subsequent years of the McKinley administration present modern America in prototype. With technology, finance, and industry expanding to the point of overproduction, the nation bungles its way into the Cuban revolution and then the Spanish American War, which ineluctably evolves into an explicit grab for the markets and resources of our own backyard empire. This shift from a traditional isolationism erupts with an alarming outpouring of jingoism, mass enthusiasm, military opportunism, and patriotic fervor. The song ???Stars and Stripes Forever??? and the Pledge of Allegiance (written by a magazine PR copywriter) are among the artifacts of this period. While the author is sympathetic to the amiable McKinley in many ways and alert to the complexities of American expansionism, he is equally lucid about the labor and racial issues of the day. The best and most interesting part of the book is his treatment of McKinley???s assassin as a second protagonist with nearly equal time. This allows a fascinating history of turn-of-the-century labor anarchism and urban ???terrorism,??? from the Haymarket Seven to the heirs of Emma Goldman. There???s a bit of whiplash as sections move back and forth between the two protagonists and narrative lines. But it is easy to follow, rich with anecdote, and holds together a remarkable amount of historical material. While I am not judging the book???s scholarship or originality, it makes an excellent, informative, and even suspenseful history in audio form, and very well read.

16 people found this helpful

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McKinley

Arthur Morey did a good job with the narration of this story. Nothing seems to change as McKinley was assassinated by a loner who was smart but had mental problems. We can keep on counting how many times this has happened. When will we start dealing with mental health problems. Lots of information in this story about McKinley, the depression of 1893, unemployment due to industriailzation, Spanish American war and Theodore Roosevelt. Lots of information was provided about the assassin and his motivation and mental health. The book paints a detailed picture of life and politics of 1896 to 1900. Good to read to understand the era.

8 people found this helpful

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Turn of the 20th Century History at its Best

When one looks at the main title, much of the book is missed. Yes, this is a book about the assassination of President William McKinley, but the author places that event into a very complicated geo-political context. When the sub-title is considered, the book is aptly named. I've read two other books that are similar in style and scope: "The Big Burn" by Timothy Egan and "Destiny of the Republic" by Candice Millard. Both of these books also place one event into a very large context. The author examines the relationship between labor and business owners, which influences the movement knows as anarchism. Most readers will associate anarchism with Emma Goldman, but the author goes much beyond that and shows how the movement used terrorism in Europe to further their goals. Ultimately, it was shown that the president's assassin was an anarchist. The author also gives a fine history of the Spanish American War and all it entailed with American possessions. Almost all the material the author used was new to me. I learned a lot from the book and I really liked the narrator's style. Most importantly, I finally learned how to pronounce the assassin's name!

7 people found this helpful

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Excellent!

A very interesting treatment of a great president and an important time in American history. The author made history come alive, and the narrator made it even more interesting.

6 people found this helpful

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Let Me Down

I came into this book hoping for a look at McKinley and his assassin. Unfortunately this book was unfocused I understand that with a historical look at the event, that you have to step back and look at the life of the individuals in question. But the author would start with McKinley or Czolgosz and then move further into events that I felt were not relevant. I was hoping at a deeper look into the personal lives of these two men, instead the story's main focus was on McKinley's Geo-political achievement's and the Anarchist movement of the late 1800's. I do appreciate the history lesson, but as I said I wanted more time to get to know these two men and also the days up to and following the event in greater detail. As for the performance I enjoyed Mr. Morey, he did a great job and I had no issues with his voice or how he read the subject matter. This book wasn't for me, I hope that my review helps and that if you are looking for the story that is told here that you enjoy it.

4 people found this helpful

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Fascinating, complex history

Scott Miller has written a well-researched, in-depth history of a time that seems similar to our own. There are really two (maybe three) books here -- that's a compliment and a criticism. He tells the story of anarchism in the late 1800s, with the Haymarket incident and Emma Goldman, as a way to explain the assassin. And tales of the McKinley administration, with the War of 1812 alone, are rich enough to fill several volumes.

I really have enjoyed the book, so I don't want to discourage anyone from reading it, but listening to the Audible edition, I've found the author's organization of the book jarring at times, moving from the 1870s to the 1890s and back again. That might just be a quibble if you're reading the print version. It isn't too jarring to continue, and I'm not sure how he would've avoided it, but fair warning if you'd like a linear storyline.

I might've preferred the print version, too, just to see footnotes, but I love footnotes, and not everyone is like me (hey, the print version may not even have footnotes, for all I know).

They're all great stories, and if you don't know much about this period of our history, or even if you do, you'll enjoy Miller's take on it. It gave me a much better understanding of Teddy Roosevelt, too, and of why the 20th century proceeded as it did.

But beware if you're not crazy for small, interesting nuggets of history. I love 'em, and I do like this book.

3 people found this helpful

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Great look back into 19th Century America.

What made the experience of listening to The President and the Assassin the most enjoyable?

Learning about a period in history I was not as familiar with.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The President and the Assassin?

The cause and consequence of the Spanish American War on the shaping of the United States as a world power as the 20th century began. Also the role that the anarchists played in society at the time and their influence on the labor unions that would become more prevalent in the 1920's and 1930's.

Which scene was your favorite?

How William McKinley did not overact the sinking of the USS Main and his more global view of America's involvement not only in the battle in Cuba but our military involvement in the Pacific.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It was sad to read about how the assassin who in so many ways was delusional and insignificant played such a vital role in shaping the history of the United States for the rest of the 20th century.

Any additional comments?

This was a very enjoyable listen.

3 people found this helpful

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Gripping history but no biography

A well written book that gives you a good historical overview of the issues of social unrest and war/foreign affairs during McKinley's presidency. As a history piece it works well as a biography, which was my purpose, it lacks. Chronology can be hard to follow at times and social unrest focus is mainly on anarchism insight of McKinley outside these issues is lacking though it does give you a sense of his personality. Enjoyable but I'll need another book for his biography.

1 person found this helpful

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incorrectly titled

what is missing from this book is a clear protagonist. the book is much more about the evils of colonialism and the influences of uber rich on government policy mixed with a little bit about the story of a man who assassinates a President. the authors attempts to explain the justifications for the assassination feels more like romanticizing anarchism. with a clear case of presentism, what should be the protagonist has been demonized such that one doesn't feel adequate empathy for McKinley when he gets shot. This is no Destiny of the Republic!

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Much bigger (and better) than the title

Not only does this book cover the assassination of McKinley, it offers a brilliant glimpse into the grander acts of violence which led up to it. At he end of the 19th century, the concepts of anarchy and Imperialism clash as the U.S. rushes headlong into its role as an international power. McKinley evolves from a Civil War vet determined to avoid another war to the leader of a colonizing power, subjugating peoples for the sake of big business. His assassin's evolution is also well charted, revealing the powerlessness of our working poor. Overall one of the best books on this period of American history.