In 1861 Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) became the United States' sixteenth president. But before Lincoln became the nation's chief executive, he led a fascinating life that sheds considerable light upon significant themes in American history. Lincoln/Net presents materials from Lincoln's Illinois years (1830-1861), supplemented by resources from Illinois' early years of statehood (1818-1829). Thus Lincoln/Net provides a record of Lincoln's career, but it also uses his experiences as a lens through which users might explore and analyze his social and political context.

Lincoln/Net is the product of the Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project. Based at Northern Illinois University, the Lincoln Project works with a number of Illinois institutions, including the University of Chicago, the Newberry Library, the Chicago Historical Society, Illinois State University, the Illinois State Archives, Lewis University, and Knox College. Collaborating institutions have contributed historical materials, including books, manuscripts, images, maps and other resources, to the Lincoln Project. You may examine them in several ways.

Lincoln/Net users may search all materials in the archives using this site's search engine. Project staff have also gathered these materials together into groups containing similar materials. Site users may restrict their research to specific media types, browsing or searching through textual materials, images and maps, sound recordings, video materials, and interactive resources.

Project staff have also reviewed these materials' contents and assembled groups of resources pertaining to eight major themes in American history: frontier settlement; Native American relations; economic development; women's experience and gender roles; African-Americans' experience and American racial attitudes; law and society; religion and culture; and political development. Materials shedding significant light upon any of these themes will be available through a series of lists available via the Lincoln/Net search page.

These resources will also be accessible through Lincoln/Net's set of interpretive materials. While a number of successful online historical archives have presented users with rich collections of searchable primary source materials, many wonder "what should I search for?" Lincoln/Net addresses this question by presenting analytical discussions of its eight major historical themes, as well as an online Lincoln biography linking the life of our sixteenth president to major events and developments in the antebellum era.

Lincoln/Net's interpretive materials help the site's users to formulate historical questions that they may then test with the archive's primary source data. In order to facilitate this research, Lincoln/Net users may search all related thematic materials directly from the page containing interpretive matter. Thus a Lincoln/Net user reading the site's discussion of antebellum politics can turn directly to a search of political source materials.

The Lincoln Project staff hope that these innovations will help Lincoln/Net users to enjoy the historical materials collected in the archive. We also hope that Lincoln/Net's discussions of major themes in the American historical literature can help bring some of these fascinating debates to the general audience historians have largely abandoned in recent decades.