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Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times was written by H. W. Brands, a professor of history who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin and has previously authored many bestselling popular books on American history. Published in 2005, it focuses on a narrative of the life of one of the United States' most colorful presidents.
Andrew Jackson was born to a Scots-Irish immigrant family in 1767, and received a limited education in a small local school. Clever and ambitious, after stints at several other careers, he apprenticed himself to a lawyer, and eventually became a member of the bar. He had a fiery temper and was a notorious daredevil, as well as a natural military leader whose gritty determination led to the nickname "Old Hickory". His 1815 victory in the Battle of New Orleans led to his winning the presidency. He also founded the Democratic Party. Although a slave owner, he was considered a somewhat humane one by the standards of his period.
Brands' book, dispensing with much of the explicit historiographical apparatus of academic writing, tells the life of Jackson as a story, giving readers a sense of the man as a person as well as political figure. Although covering Jackson's entire life, his main focus is on the major political events of Jackson's career.
Jackson's first controversial policy had to do with renegotiating treaties with Native Americans. Jackson favored what was called "Indian removal" from their tribal lands to areas west of the Mississippi, a policy that did irreparable harm to many Native American communities, including the infamous "Trail of Tears", a forced march to Oklahoma during which 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokees removed from their ancestral lands died. The second was what was know as the "nullification crisis" in which South Carolina threatened to secede over import duties passed by Congress. After Jackson prepared to use military force against South Carolina, the state backed down and remained in the Union. Finally, Brands analyzes Jackson's dissolution of the Bank of the United States and the ensuing economic recession.
Overall, the book is highly sympathetic to Jackson, perhaps more so than Jackson deserves, but highly readable and well-researched.
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