The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century. By Scott Miller. New York: Random House, 2011. 422 pp.
Scott Miller, who holds a master's degree in international relations, spent twenty years as a correspondent for the Wall Streetffournal and Reuters, reporting from Europe and Asia. In this, his first book, Miller recounts a story that will be well familiar to historians of the period.
Miller organizes the text into 34 chapters and an afterward. He begins with a chapter detailing the events of September 6, 1901, when Leon Czolgosz, a young anarchist, born in the United States of Polish parents, shot President William McKinley, who was greeting well-wishers in Buffalo, New York. Miller then jumps backward in time to relate, in chapters that alternate between McKinley and Czolgosz, the events that brought each man to that place and time. For McKinley, Miller looks at his Civil War experiences, his rise in Republican politics, his election to the presidency, the war with Spain, and the acquisition of well-placed insular possessions as the basis for a commercial empire. For Czolgosz, Miller traces his family's arrival in the United States, the emergence and growth of anarchist thought (with some attention to events in Europe but more to Haymarket, Homestead, and Emma Goldman), the comings and goings of Czolgosz, his conversion to anarchism, and the events that led him to Buffalo. The afterword briefly wraps up several loose ends, ranging from the Panama Canal to the Philippines, from Emma Goldman's later life to the current consensus about the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine.
Previous historians have explored these topics at length and in depth, based on extensive research into primary sources. Miller draws upon the large volume of work...