"Woodrow Wilson" by W. Barksdale Maynard

Woodrow Wilson Princeton to the Presidency W. Barksdale Maynard

Publication date:
27 Aug 2013
Yale University Press
416 pages: 235 x 159 x 27mm
40 scattered b-w illus.
Sales territories:

Before Woodrow Wilson became president of the United States, he spent 25 years at Princeton University, first as an undergraduate, then professor, and finally as president. His experiences at the helm of Princeton—where he enjoyed four productive years followed by four years of wrangling and intense acrimony—reveal much about the kind of man he was and how he earned a reputation as a fearless crusader. This engrossing book focuses on how Wilson’s Princeton years influenced the ideas and worldview he later applied in politics. His career in the White House, W. Barksdale Maynard shows, repeated with uncanny precision his Princeton experiences.


The book recounts how Wilson’s inspired period of building, expansion, and intellectual fervor at Princeton deteriorated into one of the most famous academic disputes in American history. His battle to abolish elitist eating clubs and establish a more egalitarian system culminated in his defeat and dismissal, and the ruthlessness of his tactics alienated even longtime friends. So extreme was his behavior, some historians have wondered whether he suffered a stroke. Maynard sheds new light on this question, on Wilson’s temper, and on other aspects of his strengths and shortcomings. The book provides an unprecedented inside view of a hard-fighting president—a man who tried first to remake a university and then to remake the world.

W. Barksdale Maynard is lecturer in the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University. He lives in Wilmington, DE.

Winner of the 2009 Honor Book given by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

Winner of the 2009 Richard P. McCormick Prize, given by the New Jersey Historical Commission.

“Maynard provides us with a fascinating account of our 28th President’s life from his time as a student, through his tenure as Princeton University’s President, and up until the day he died. A superb biography.”—Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley

“Woodrow Wilson's complex personality shaped his tumultuous tenure as president of Princeton, which propelled him into politics. The radiating consequences of America's only professor-president still shape American politics and policy. Hence the high value of Barksdale Maynard's mind-opening study of Wilson's formative experiences in academia.” — George F. Will

“This poignant biography of the man who coined the phrase ‘Princeton in the nation’s service’ shows how much Woodrow Wilson’s experiences at Princeton as a student, professor, and president foreshadowed and molded his tragic career as a national and world leader.”—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

“Maynard provides an absorbing account of crucial events in the life of an important American political leader. His book is a significant addition to the literature on Wilson.”—Lewis Gould, University of Texas

“A fast-paced, well-conceived, and well-written biographical treatment of Wilson.”—James Axtell, College of William and Mary