First impressions of the Hulsmann biography of Ludwig Mises?
I’m impressed with the scope of research and the contextual richness of the story being told. A work like this is by its nature a heroic undertaking. Hulsmann in the first pages is up to the task, where many biographers are not. I like that many quotations from secondary sources are provided in the text and I like that footnotes come directly on the page and are not hidden as endnotes in the back of the book. I like the little details — a picture of the coin struck to honor the 80th birthday of a Mises ancestor is included. The book has these curious details, but doesn’t end up detoured on idiosyncratic byways without relevance to the topic of the book, not always an easy trick. Perhaps other historians would tell more of a “story” but there is certainly enough story-telling here to hang a narrative.
The historical account presented by Hulsman is workmanlike and broad, if it now and then it does take on a somewhat Olympian stance. One of the hazards of biography is be overcome by the powerful prose stylings and intellectual mannerisms of the biographical subject. It’s hard to write a biography of Mencken without the mighty life force of the man showing up in your own writing. I sense a small bit of that going on here with Hulsmann and Mises. One upside, like Misesian writing the text is clear and matter of fact, which is a very good thing.
Bottom line: I like my history rich and thick — and this is rich, thick history.