x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Nigel Hamilton: American Caesars

An engaging collection of mini-biographies of the 12 presidents who occupied the White House before Barack Obama.

American Caesars
Nigel Hamilton
Vintage Books
Dh78
American Caesars Nigel Hamilton Vintage Books Dh78

After insightful studies into John F Kennedy's wild younger days and Bill Clinton's scandal-hit presidency, Nigel Hamilton's latest book attempts a broader sweep at history, providing mini-biographies of the dozen men who occupied the White House before Barack Obama.

Modelling his formula on The Twelve Ceasars, Suetonius's classic of antiquity, Hamilton sketches each leader's path to power and their effectiveness as rulers before recording the salacious details of their private lives.

Hamilton's narrative commences with Franklin D Roosevelt, whom he asserts is "the greatest Caesar of all" for his bold and wise leadership during the Second World War. He ends with a lament on George W Bush's "disastrous" tenure, which the author believes has earned Bush a place in "the bottom tier" of US presidents.

Each essay is only around 40 pages in length, meaning the author gallops through the salient events in each of the president's lives and lacks depth in his analysis. Nevertheless, Hamilton has produced an engaging series of character studies, demonstrating a deep understanding of a dozen men who stood in the Oval Office.