History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm in the early stages of a project whereby I want to read a biography of each US President. Can you point me towards the best such biography on James Madison? I'd like something that covers his entire life, rather than something like Labunski's James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights. I'd also like something approachable by the layman (i.e. me). I'm not scared by tons of footnotes and such, but don't want something written with tons of references aimed at a specialist.

share|improve this question
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The ones I know of, and have in my reading list are James Madison by Brookhiser and James Madison by Wills. I don't think I have come across the definitive ones but these at least take Madison out of the context of the Constitution and away from Jefferson. His close association with Jefferson has often overshadowed Madison, in my opinion, so it's often hard to hear much about him without Jefferson's shadow being in the way. I've come across some bits on Madison when reading the John Adams and Alexander Hamilton biographies, and I've been interested in reading more about him and his background and these two books cover much of his philosophy and thinking.

Edit: This new book Madison and the Making of America seems to cover some of what you were looking for as well.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.